22 Jan 2019

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Indian Ocean – new global trade routes

The Chinese policy of investing more than a trillion dollars and developing trade routes along the Indian Ocean countries will usher a positive change in the region. The Impact of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the geo-economics of the Indian Ocean Region linking trade routes with Europe and other continents will brighten the prospects for Pakistan’s economic development and enhance its geostrategic importance in the region.

Addressing the International Maritime Symposium held by Institute of Maritime Affairs and Bahria University Prime Minister Abbassi opined that Pakistan’s economic growth at 6 percent will increase remarkably by ensuring the proper utilization of access to the sea.

The annual value of two-way international trade passing through the Indian Ocean sea lanes has gone above USD 1 trillion. This trade is expected to double in the next decade. Pakistan has been given the pivotal role in the BRI initiative due to its strategic geographical location in the region.

The prime Abbassi rightly passed on the credit of developing the BRI which he said had enhanced the importance of the Indian Ocean to the Chinese President Xi Jinping for conceptualising and announcing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the economic objectives of connectivity, unimpeded trade, and financial integration.

The Gawadar port will play an important role in developing the Indian Ocean trade route.  The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be the linchpin of the BRI mega project.

The potential of developing trade routes via the India Ocean and the CPEC would be a game changer in the region, particularly for Pakistan. Landlocked countries like Afghanistan and Central Asian states will have a lot to gain from the new Indian Ocean routes running from the Gawadar port.

An increase of trade will certainly also raise the security and hegemony issues to a new level if important regional players like China, America, Pakistan and India failed to focus on trade and more on raising the level of tensions.  Countries need to cooperate to reap economic benefits from the Chinese BRI instead of fueling rivalries.

Pakistan and China will be under huge pressure to counter the new security threats in the region to protect the flow of trade in and out of the Gawadar port. The Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean will certainly improve the maritime security of the region with its naval bases spread out along the Indian Ocean smooth flow of trade can be easily guaranteed making the Indian Ocean a global energy hub.

India unfortunately despite repeated attempts by the Chinese are refusing to join in the BRI project casting a negative shadow on the region’s economic growth. India could have reaped heavy benefits by joining the regional trade partnership but this would require coming out of the outdated cold war mentality and shun it’s historic animosity towards Pakistan.

Please share your views on how the Chinese BRI initiative could be exploited to eliminate unemployment in the country and pull people out of poverty.

Your Editor

Shahzad Badar

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