By Asia Maqsood
The One Belt and One Road initiative would lessen the probabilities of nuclear war between India and Pakistan providing Pakistan a competence to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan plays a significant role in China’s Maritime Silk Route as part of China’s Belt and Road (B & R) initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a vital development project within China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and serves as the crucial link between the maritime ‘road’ and land based ‘belt’ aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India perceives this China’s Maritime Silk route passing through South Asia a direct threat to its core strategic interest in Indian Ocean as it wants to maintain Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean (IO) and Indian Ocean Littoral States.
India’s great leaders have strong aspirations to be a blue water navy or the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean since its inception in 1947. India’s Anit Mukherjee determines Indian Ocean strategy in three categories. One is to establish closer ties with the US and its allies, second is to strengthen its links with Indian Ocean Littoral states and last is to building up its own military power ( including the induction of Nuclear capable Submarines into Indian Ocean).
Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is the coastal area (consists of islands and states) lying in contact with the IO. It has become a renewed focal point of global economy, having substantial avenues for economic activities of Asia, the US and Europe. Therefore, all stakeholders are obliged to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean in order to avoid any miscalculation or misperception among all stake holders. Moreover, China is expected to be the world’s largest oil importing country and India expected to be the largest coal importing country by 2020; therefore, there is an inevitable need for their cooperative efforts to ensure energy security.
On the other hand, the enlargement of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the IOR is primarily due to the large economic incentives. China has transported 173.9 million tons of oil from the Middle East to China, and 52.4 million tons from Africa to China in 2016. Besides, China has established its first overseas military base in Djibouti which is considered by India as part of China’s “String of Pearls” strategy and would engulf India.
If India is developing its military (three wings: army, navy, air force) to maximize its power, likewise it may avoid to feed its fears related to China’s port development assistance in the IOR as China is pursuing its own national economic and strategic interests. India perceives that these ports can disrupt the refueling of India’s tankers, warships because of the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy in the IOR.
The contemporary world is globalized and interdependent where states have to cooperate with each other in each walk of life. Therefore, India’s rhetoric regarding China’s development projects may prove unjustified in future. Here question arises that why India is the one of the biggest trade partner of China if it feels that it would be engulfed by China?
By the same token, India has presuppositions that the development of Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province under China—Pakistan’s joint development project, “China—Pakistan Economic Corridor” will pave the way for the formation of Chinese naval base in Gwadar. Fuelling fears against China, India has launched nuclear capable Submarine in the Indian Ocean. This nuclearization of Indian Ocean has serious security implications for Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan needs a strategic partner currently (in form of “China”) in order to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean. China can monitor the naval activities of both the US and India on the Indian Ocean.
Some of the recent events such as India-China military standoff at Doklam from 16 June 2017 – 28 August 2017 and India-Pakistan’s blame game on the unprovoked firing on the Line of Control region in 2017 and in the beginning of 2018 (left hundreds of people dead and injured), are the destabilizing incidents in the South Asian region. In the backdrop of these insecurities, Pakistan has to maximize its defence.
Most recently, an embryonic formation of an alternative route against China’s B &R initiative by a quad of Australia, India, Japan and the US in order to contain China’s global influence may exacerbate some tensions at global level. India being part of this quad may pursue its strategic objective against China’s B & R initiative. India considers China’s Maritime Silk Route projects in South Asia as part of its larger strategy of challenging Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean.
India here has certain doubts about Chinese aims to deploy Gwadar in the medium to long term as a dual use port, allowing the PLA key access into the Indian Ocean as well as bolstering Pakistan’s ability to deter any Indian advantage in the naval realm.
The Pakistani port of Gwadar, built, financed and operated by China is located at the union of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, providing China access to a key location in the Indian Ocean.
In between all these states, Pakistan being an important part of China’s Belt and Road initiative can maximize it maritime security fittingly. Pakistan navy is likely to buy eight more diesel-electric attack submarines from China in near future. These are scheduled for delivery in 2028 to maximize Pakistan’s maritime security as a defensive measure. It may a direct response to India’s August 2016 deployment of its first nuclear submarine, the Arihant. A second, even more advanced Indian nuclear submarine, the Arighat, began sea trials last November, and four more boats are scheduled to join the fleet by 2025. That will give India a “nuclear triad,” which means the country will have the ability to deliver a nuclear strike by land-based missiles, by warplanes, and by submarines. The submarine is the key component. It’s considered the most “survivable” in the event of a devastating first strike by an enemy, and thus able to deliver a retaliatory second strike.
Lastly, both China and Pakistan will be able to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean so that India’s any attempt to get an advantage in the IO can be counterbalanced. If, supposedly, that advantage will go unnoticed, there would be more chance of the nuclearization.
When it comes to India and Pakistan, by contrast, the new generation of nuclear submarines may increase the risk of a devastating war between the two longstanding enemies.
*Asia Maqsood has a degree of M. Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. She has done Masters in International Relations from the same Institute. She frequently writes on China Pakistan affairs, CPEC, South Asia’s Regional Issues which have been published in various national, international blogs and newspapers. She can be reached at [email protected]