Falak Naz

New dimension of economic cooperation and interdependence is emerging in the region with China’s recent Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreement for 25 years with Iran worth 400 Billion USD. On the other hand, CPEC is thriving with leaps and bounds in Pakistan. With China as a common denominator between Pakistan and Iran, there is a vivid potential for the extensions of the partnership between the neighbors and beyond. Recently Iran has also been accepted as permanent member to SCO – one of the emerging powerful regional organizations.

Economy is a linking factor that connects the states, and treads them on the path of mutual interests which leads to peace and development. Following are the areas of mutual interests that can spearhead the possibility of the Iran-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor:

Mutual Economic interests

Iran, China and Pakistan’s converging economic interest in the region and beyond especially with the potential of trilateral agreement could lead to prosperity in the poverty-ridden regions. Being the most populated state and an economic hub, the energy needs of China are rapidly increasing. The supply of cheap gas and oil from Iran to China via Pakistan thus provides an impetus for an economic corridor. The corridor will serve the respective goals of these states. It will provide China with the opportunity to meet its energy needs towards more economic growth. For Iran, it will be the chance to navigate easily through the financial losses it faces due to the US sanctions. Whereas, Pakistan can use its geostrategic location to become an economic and transit hub for china’s oil and gas supply from Iran. There is also a huge prospect for trade in different sectors other than energy and its transport among these three states such as textiles, sports, pharmaceuticals, electronic products, furniture, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products among others.

CPEC’s westward expansion (W-CPEC+)

Iran has a huge potential to become a part of the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Iranian officials time and again have shown their interest in joining the project. As part of CPEC’s westward expansion, “W-CPEC+” (W referring to the western expansion of CPEC), the Iran-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will provide a plethora of benefits. In this regard, these states can work towards cooperating on the development of Chabahar and Gwadar Ports. Through the development of these two “sister-ports”, Iran, China, and Pakistan can reap the benefits of trade and transport to the greatest extent. Additionally, as the extension of CPEC, the Corridor can help materialize the proposed USD $400 billion dollars economic deal between Iran and China with the inclusion of Pakistan.

CPEC’s westward expansion

Boosting Iran-Pakistan ties and China’s role

Iran-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will help mend ties between Iran and Pakistan which lately have deteriorated due to border skirmishes. The two states share common historical, religious, cultural, and linguistic ties but the potential for their stronger economic ties is yet to be explored. China in this regard can play an important role by bringing these two states together. Iran has the second-largest gas reserves and fourth-largest oil reserves in the world, and Pakistan is located at the crossroads of Asia with China in the north, India in the east, while Iran and Afghanistan in the west. Hence, both Iran and Pakistan can work with China to secure the benefits of their geographical locations. And as the cooperation increases, the irritants in Iran-Pakistan relations will decrease as well particularly the border skirmishes. China can also spearhead the work of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline (erstwhile Iran-Pakistan-India, IPI gas pipeline) and become another important partner in the project through the Corridor.

Map of Asia (Showing the geographical proximity between Iran, Pakistan, and China)

Ensuring security and development

Development and security go hand in hand. Without security, there is no development and without development, there is no security. Like CPEC, the Iran-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will open doors of development for the underdeveloped areas of these states. The Xinjiang province of China, and Balochistan province of Pakistan will get numerous benefits mainly in the form of employment and infrastructure development. The economic development will also help in pacifying the security situation in these areas. It eventually would lead to the security and development of the entire region.

Countering Indo-US ties

Countering the Indo-US ties is yet another motivating factor for Iran, China, and Pakistan to establish a stronger partnership through the Corridor. In the absence of a strong and sustained partnership, their adversaries can take the advantage of the vacuum. The US and India are bolstering their relations to contain any possible influence of China in the regions of Middle East and South Asia, the rise of which as an economic giant is an eye sore to both these states. Additionally, the US is also against any Iranian influence in the Middle East. It is hitting Iran with tough economic sanctions which hamper its economic development. Although India with which Iran shares friendly relations yet it has not proved a reliable partner of Iran. It’s backing from the IPI gas pipeline, and now its reported drop out from one of the projects in Chabahar Port probably under the US pressure are the glaring examples. On the other hand, the relations of Pakistan with both India and the US are also marred by disputes and antagonism. Hence, it becomes imperative for Iran, China and Pakistan to foster their economic relations to counter the ambitions of their common adversaries.

Greater regional integration

Economic integration can lead to a greater integration in other areas of cooperation such as political, social-cultural, security, and defence. The model of the European Union is the finest example of such integration. The purpose of the creation of the EU is to unite different states of Europe under one roof by replacing their self-interests with mutual interests. The founding members of the Union saw in economic cooperation a way forward toward peace and prosperity in the European continent which was devastated by continuous wars. The spillover effect of economic cooperation led to greater European integration. This integration resulted in peace and economic prosperity for the entire continent. If the same model will be followed by Iran, China and Pakistan through an economic corridor, not only it can ensure economic prosperity but it will lead to peace in the Asian continent.

The aforementioned factors provide ample opportunities for the possibility of the Iran-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, there also exist a few challenges that range from terrorism, religious extremism, sectarian issues, and India’s maneuvers of subversion as it is doing against CPEC, and the interference of the US. Yet, if these three nations align their interests and remain steadfast for their trilateral cooperation, the economic corridor will prove a game-changer like CPEC.

 

The writer is a Research Intern Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and The Diplomatic Insight.

*The views expressed in this opinion article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the standpoint of the organization.

 

 

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