Pakistan Gets the Better of Iran on One Belt, One Road Initiative
Date of publication : August 13, 2016 22:37 pm
Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz (L) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) before a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 27, 2016 in Beijing, China.
Chinese Silk Road has two land and maritime routes, one of the characteristics of the land route may be considered as its east–west orientation which intersects with new Silk Road of the USA with its north–south orientation (Central Asia–Afghanistan and South Asia). But the Chinese do not point to this matter due to their own traditional style. Although the history of these plans dates back to 1990s, but the new Silk Road plan of the USA is proposed in 2011 and the Silk Road plan of China is also suggested in 2013.
While describing the routes of economic belt of Silk Road, it is stated in the Deed of “Insights and Practices related to Joint Construction of Economic Belt of the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road of 21st
Century” published by Chinese government in March 2015: “Economic belt of Silk Road emphasizes on integration of China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltics) and making relationship between China and Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and Western Asia, and also linking China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and Indian Ocean”. Iran has not been mentioned in the context of Deed at all. There is also no reference to Iran when explaining land and maritime routes, the issue which has created a kind of ambiguity. The Deed is arranged in 2015 and before JCPOA, and apparently has not been changed by the Chinese. Without mentioning Iran, it seems that the Chinese have provided more space for maneuver for themselves.
The uncertainty of the Chinese from post-JCPOA political and economic procedure and the relationship between Iran and the USA especially until the upcoming presidential elections in Iran and the USA, potential dissatisfaction of China with close relationship between Iran and India especially the recent tripartite agreement between Iran, India and Afghanistan to develop Chabahar Harbor, and at last, traditional conservative and calm politics of the Chinese in foreign politics area are as the reasons and grounds may be conceived for ambiguous and unknown position of Iran in the Chinese Silk Road Plan at the current time.
Unlike Iran, a serious consideration and a practical approach have been inclined to Pakistan by China. The attention of China to Pakistan in the Deed of “Insights and Practices related to Joint Construction of Economic Belt of the Silk Road and Marine Silk Road of 21st
Century” is considerable. It is mentioned in page 4 of the Deed: “There is a close relationship between the Pakistan-China economic corridor and also the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economical corridor with “a road-a belt” innovation; and more close and developed cooperation are required as well”. According to the economical corridor plan dubbed “CPEC” formed by investment and a 46 billion dollars credit of China, it is scheduled to connect Gwadar Port of Pakistan to Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China with a network of over 3000 kilometers of roads and railways. This economical corridor passes through two poor states of Baluchistan and Lahore. Investors believe that road communications will develop different areas of Pakistan economically, and will provide a critical passageway for China’s exports to the Middle East and Europe.
It is obvious that the position of Iran is not clear in the Chinese Silk Road Plan and encounters many ambiguities in comparison with that of Pakistan. Unlike Pakistan for which, the different economical plans of Silk Road are clearly drawn on the map and specific budgetary lines are forecasted for each plan, the position of Iran is limited in generalities in the Chinese Silk Road Plan. So, it is necessary to step on like Pakistan and ask the Chinese side to cross generalities and to define an appropriate position for Iran in the land and maritime routes of Silk Road and also to allocate required budget for each plan. Otherwise, the position of Iran in the Chinese Silk Road Plan will be confined in generalities and rhetoric and diplomatic formalities.
NOTE: This article is an excerpt of what the author previously delivered in a virtual meeting in Tehran on July 22, 2016.
Vali Kaleji, an expert at Iranian Center for Strategic Research (CSR), is the senior fellow at IRAS.
To comment on this article, please contact IRAS Editorial Board.