China’s announced US$57 billion investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an essential part of China’s goal to connect the Indian Ocean to Central Asia, but as Nicholas Trickett and Oliver Thomas write for the Diplomat, it won’t be so easy.
At the center of China’s CPEC investment is the port of Gwadar. Hopes that one day Gwadar could be linked through Afghanistan to Tajikistan, however, look dim due to Afghanistan’s block on Pakistan transport through the country. That is, of course, in response to Pakistan’s block on India.
That has left India no choice but to invest in the Iranian port of Chabahar. The port, located right across the Iran-Pakistan border from Gwadar has the potential to be an alternative connector between the Indian Ocean and the Caspian Sea.
Where does Russia come in? Trickett and Thomas argue that Russia and Iran would prefer to split influence in the Caspian region between themselves, slowing down China’s advance. Chabahar’s development could be the key to this end.