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A    FORMIDABLE   BLOC   TO   BE
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A FORMIDABLE BLOC TO BE 

(Prof. Safdar Sandal) Indian isolation and a new regional order in South and Central Asian Region (CARs) are, in the offing. It will have global repercussions unequivocally. Under the BJP rule, India has shown a lack of strategies or divine spark for which its diplomacy was always famous. Today, under the Hindutva government, New Delhi has isolated itself in the region and in pursuit of catching American eyes has distanced itself from its close allies Russia and recently betrothed Iran. The term Hindutva is an alternative used to signify a variety of concepts such as ‘Hindu Nationalism’, ‘Hindu Supremasim’, and ‘Brahmanism’. These self-imposed complexes and racial anatomy is bound to decipher as these are against the norms of a civilized society. It has started to make dents in the literate part of the Indian people too. Its strategic importance due to its geography and due to its neo-colonial mindset and its military haughtiness but in-capability, has come on the shore. It has treated with Kashmir in the same manner; it had dismantled Babri masjid in Ayodhya.  Kashmir is not Ayodhya; it must have been realized.

In my last article, I had dwelt on growing cooperation between Iran and China, when some details were yet to come on board. Now, the ‘New York Times’, in its July 11.2020 edition has revealed some details of the undergoing China-Iran twenty-five-year comprehensive strategic partnership’s final draft.  Earlier Iran’s foreign minister Javed Zarif presented this historic understanding in the Iranian Parliament (Majlis). He there disclosed that a decision to this effect had earlier been taken in January 2016 when President Xi Jinping had visited Iran. According to the initial report, the 18-page draft outline identifies nearly a hundred different projects between the two countries, ranging from building the Iranian infrastructure, like airports, subways, and high-speed trains for development of trade-free zones, and up-gradation of the telecommunications network, and many more allied subjects. The opening lines of the proposed draft signify the vastness of this understanding. It states, “Two ancient Asian cultures, partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture, and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests will consider one-another as strategic partners”.

Before examining the implications of this agreement on regional and global geostrategic alignments, it is important to review its key points: First, the deal is worth 400billion USD: of which $280 is expected to be spent by China on Iran’s energy sector, while $120 to be reserved for industry and transportation development. Second, the agreement is likely to address Iran’s economic problems, especially unemployment, which it faced because of the American sanctions, after unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by the Trump administration, commonly known as ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’. Third, Iran will supply oil to China at a special discount price, for 25 years, thus fulfilling the energy needs of China. Fourth, under the same plan, China is likely to introduce a new digital currency called “e-RMB”, which will be able to counter the monopoly of the US Dollar in the international economic system, sidelining the American-sanction-regime.  Fifth, the benefits of this strategic agreement would not be limited to China and Iran but will extend to the whole region, as it would be the first Asian alliance of its nature. At this juncture, I would like my readers to note the difference of Chinese investment in Pakistan-related projects being of 62 billion USD, as compared to the 400 billion USD in Iranian projects. The deal displays the vastness of the cooperation and its political impacts. Pakistan is supposed to benefit again from this huge investment, indirectly.

The strategic nature and permanence of this agreement have alarmed the United States, in particular, who finds this as an unforeseen alliance and as a stepping stone for China’s growing influence in the Persian Gulf Region. In the concerned quarters of Washington-DC, this closeness is clearly visualized as a challenge to US strategic and economic monopoly in the Gulf and wider Middle East region.  Under the circumstances, the only option left for Iran was to ally with a powerful state having the potential to side-track the worse effects of the US sanctions. On its part, the emerging economic and industrial prowess of China has shown its ability to ensure security for Iran and create a balance of power in the tense region of the gulf.  All these goals are achievable through a long-term, mutually beneficial Iran-China partnership. It is important to note that the effects of this agreement will not be limited to only these two countries but much more beyond. China’s ingress into Iran was always on the cards.

India has since been unceremoniously ousted from Iran, its Chaubahar Port, and other projects. Its nefarious efforts to bypass Pakistan to reach Afghanistan and the CARs have been summarily smothered.  India has lost its firmest base in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER).  Its relation with Iran has been sacrificed at the altar of the embryonic Indo-US strategic partnership, drastically curtailing its sphere of influence and power-projection-potential. Ironically China, its nemesis, is most effectively replacing it.

As for Pakistan, before assessing the ramifications of the Sino partnership, it is important to glance at the background of Pakistan-Chinese close ties. In the 1950s after its independence, when China was struggling to establish its place in the regional and global environment, Pakistan decided to establish good relations with emerging China, even though Pakistan was committed in the Western camp and a member of the ‘SEATO’ (and later CENTO which were US sponsored defense pacts). The purpose of this organization was to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region.  Although Pakistan was an ardent member of this arrangement against communism and some clauses of this treaty explicitly stated that it is an alliance to deal with Chinese military threat.  At this point and time, Pakistan took the courage to categorically make its position clear in a documented ‘SEATO’ meeting that although Pakistan was a member of this arrangement it does not consider itself as antagonistic towards China, its immediate neighbor.  This gesture was welcomed, in a speech by the legendary Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.  Since then, the relations between the two countries have been more than cordial, despite US obstacles, directly or maneuvered through its policies of the Gulf.

Pakistan and China are partners in the “CPEC”, another long term strategic partnership, and Chinese close ties with Iran would provide a tactical shield to Pakistan’s strategic and economic interests, strengthening still further—if Pakistan’s all-weather ally Turkey joins in this situation. Ties with Iran and Turkey will bounce back, like in the RCD-era albeit the intervening bad tastes in the good relationship of Pakistan and Iran mainly created by India, and are now poised to recover for good. Prime Minister Imran Khan remarked in a recent TV interview, “We should be clear that our future is with China”. He went on further to say that Pakistan is lucky to have China as our friend, as on all occasions it has stood by us, while the others shied away. To be sure in the near future, China, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey would form a formidable regional- strategic understanding. The hitherto spoiled by India; the sour country Afghanistan will also see reason and will tie itself with the string of friendship though feared by me, to be at the fag end. Ungrateful as it is, despite Pakistan having sheltered over four million Afghanistan refugees for the last forty years. More important are neighboring ‘Central Asian States’ who have a rich Muslim heritage and with whom Pakistan has enjoyed kinship-like relations due past common history, will not stay away from this invincible bloc to be.. (China, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran Make a Perfect Alliance).

 

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