The geopolitical context of international politics has significantly increased the focus of power politics toward the Asian region. This change of focus in the global arena has bought new opportunities and options for Pakistan as well as new traditional and non-traditional security challenges. In this context, Balochistan is one of the main pivot areas within CPEC. Balochistan is central in the regional connectivity of Pakistan through CPEC because it acts as a gateway in connecting the land corridor with the maritime domain.
The southern border of Balochistan makes up two-thirds (770 KM) of the national coastline. Therefore, approximately 70 percent of Pakistan’s coastline line is situated in Balochistan.
In addition, the geo-strategic placement of Balochistan regarding the main corridors of the world explicates its geo-political and economic potential. The development of the Gwadar port project and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has altogether changed the geopolitical optics of the region and particularly Pakistan. The following figure illustrates how Balochistan is central to the global connectivity of Pakistan as well as China.
Heartland of CPEC
The Southern border of Balochistan makes up two-thirds (770 KM) of the national coastline
|875 km from Strait of Hormuz||758 km from Gulf of Oman||1334 km from Persian Gulf|
|Gwadar at the shores of Arabian Sea||Potential gateway in Pakistan Iran-China troika||Central in Chinese maritime ambitions in the Arabian sea/Indian Ocean Region|
Balochistan has been one of the most deprived areas in Pakistan despite having the largest territorial area and abundant natural resources. In addition, it has faced political turmoil, ethnic strife, and a series of insurgencies that contributed to the existing complexities of Balochistan.
Following is a proposed strategy that endorses to re-think and re-organize the state’s optics towards Balochistan to transform this potential heartland into one of the main corridors of Asia. In this context, the word green that symbolizes prosperity, rebirth, progression, growth, and nature. Therefore, the word green has been compartmentalized to develop a policy initiative for Balochistan that can largely contribute to the development of CPEC and the blue economy of Pakistan.
The Green Balochistan Initiative
G for a Grand Strategy
There is a need to refine the strategic optics for Balochistan by linking it with CPEC and the potential avenues of the Blue economy. The grand strategy focuses on four major components. Firstly, incorporating economic and human security in the strategic thought for Balochistan is very important. The inclusion of a human security framework is pivotal in the transformation of the Balochistan conflict.
Therefore, a people-centric approach is required to deal with the issues of governance, social injustice, poverty, and violence. The data reveals that Balochistan stands at 0.481 points in the sustainable human development index in 2020. Another report shares that 52 percent of the population in Balochistan is living below the poverty line mainly because of violence and illiteracy.
It is pertinent to share that these statistics are before the devastating flood of 2022. As, last year floods have contributed to multidimensional calamities and the destruction of infrastructure, livestock, agriculture, communications, electricity, roads, and railway tracks.
Secondly, there is a need to invest in the coastal security of Balochistan to make a safe corridor. In this respect, coastal security guards need to be equipped and trained with modern technology and should develop more coordination with Pakistan Maritime Security Agency.
Thirdly, prioritizing Balochistan within the economic security realm of Pakistan is significant. The recent inauguration of the border market and transmission line between Pakistan and Iran would enhance regional trade and energy connectivity. This marketplace is located in the Mand town, located at the Kech district in southern Balochistan. The Mand-Pishan border was the third international border crossing point that was inaugurated in April 2021. This border market is among the six places that both countries intend to develop. In the future, the development of a marketplace at the Gabd-Rimdan crossing point, inaugurated in 2020 would also be beneficial as it is just 70 kilometers from Gwadar port and 120 kilometers from the Iranian port of Chabahar.
R for Resource Distribution and Development, Rehabilitation, Construction, and Reconstruction
Resource distribution and development are central to addressing the governance and socio-economic issues of Balochistan. 56% of the families in Balochistan are facing food insecurity, Balochistan stands at 0.421 on Human Development Index, and out of the 12.3 million population of Balochistan, 85% do not have access to clean drinking water. In this context, Small Scale Irrigation Schemes, agribusiness development, livestock management, capacity building in the mining sector, fastening the economic zones under the CPEC project, and prioritizing investment and development in education, health, and overall social sector is essential in building trust between the people and the state.
E for Effective Counter-Militant Measures
Growing militancy in the southern part of Balochistan is directly affecting CPEC and developments in Gwadar. In addition, attacks on Chinese nationals in Karachi in 2022 were claimed by (Balochistan Liberation Army). Therefore, ensuring security for Chinese nationals is important for the sustainability and growth of CPEC. Enhancing border management that includes the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border is vital in countering militant activities in the province
E for Energy Corridor
Balochistan has a huge potential for wind energy in the coastal belt and solar energy across the province. For instance, other than the Makhran coast, wind corridor in the NokKundi region, Noshki, Kharan, and the Killa Saifullah areas have the potential to produce renewbale energy. In this regard, a grid-tied network would be productive for the local population as well as for investors. In addition, the troika of Iran-Pakistan-China cooperation can be beneficial in reviving and re-focusing on the natural gas pipeline project, TAPI to develop a viable energy corridor.
N for Narrative Building
Narratives that supports the inclusiveness of all stakeholders lead to a positive transformation of conflicts, as needed in Balochistan. In addition, the implementation of National Action Plan is crucial in countering militancy and containing Indian propaganda against CPEC project as India has been consistently involved in sabotaging the CPEC project by supporting militant networks in the province. Another very important discourse is generating support and acceptability within the local population for CPEC project. This can work by incorporating the local voices into main stream policy corridors and by providing more opportunities to the people and transmitting the information through local sardars and tribal leaders.