One Belt and One Road initiative would lessen the probabilities of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan by providing Pakistan with a competence to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan plays a significant role in China’s Maritime Silk Route as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI). The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a vital development project within China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and serves as the crucial link between the maritime ‘road’ and land based ‘belt’ aspects of the BRI.
India perceives China’s Maritime Silk route passing through South Asia as a direct threat to its core strategic interest in the Indian Ocean as it wants to maintain Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean (IO) and Indian Ocean Littoral States. Indian leaders have strong aspirations to be a blue water navy or the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean since its inception in 1947.
Indian Researcher Anit Mukherjee determines the Indian Ocean strategy in three categories. One is to establish closer ties with the US and its allies, second is to strengthen its links with Indian Ocean Littoral states and last is to build up its own military power (including the induction of nuclear capable submarines into the Indian Ocean).
Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is the coastal area (consists of islands and states) lying in contact with the IO. It has become a renewed focal point of global economy, having substantial avenues for economic activities of Asia, US, and Europe. Therefore, all stakeholders are obliged to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean in order to avoid any miscalculation or misperception among all stake holders. Moreover, China is expected to be the world’s largest oil importing country and India is expected to be the largest coal importing country by 2020; therefore, there is an inevitable need for their cooperative efforts to ensure security.
On the other hand, the enlargement of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the IOR is primarily due to the large economic incentives. China has transported 173.9 million tons of oil from the Middle East to China, and 52.4 million tons from Africa to China in 2016. Besides, China has established its first overseas military base in Djibouti which is considered by India as part of China’s “String of Pearls” strategy and would engulf India.
If India is developing its military (three wings: army, navy, air force) to maximize its power, likewise it may avoid feeding its fears related to China’s port development assistance in the IOR as China is pursuing its own national economic and strategic interests. India perceives that these ports can disrupt the refuelling of India’s tankers, warships because of the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy in the IOR.
The contemporary world is globalised and interdependent where states have to cooperate with each other in each walk of life. Therefore, India’s rhetoric regarding China’s development projects may prove unjustified in the future. Here the question arises that why is India one of the biggest trade partners of China if it feels that it would be engulfed by China?
By the same token, India has presuppositions that the development of Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province under China — Pakistan’s joint development project, China — Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will pave the way for the formation of Chinese naval base in Gwadar. Fuelling fears against China, India has launched a nuclear capable Submarine in the Indian Ocean. This nuclearisation of Indian Ocean has serious security implications for Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan needs a strategic partner currently (in the form of China) in order to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean. China can monitor the naval activities of both the US and India on the Indian Ocean.
The new generation of nuclear submarines may increase the risk of a devastating war between the two longstanding enemies
Some of the recent events such as India-China military standoff at Doklam from16 June 2017 — 28 August 2017 and India-Pakistan’s blame game on the unprovoked firing on the Line of Control region in 2017 and in the beginning of 2018that left hundreds of people dead and injured, are the destabilising incidents in the South Asian region. In the backdrop of these insecurities, Pakistan has to maximise its defence.
Most recently, an embryonic formation of an alternative route against China’s B&R initiative by a quad of Australia, India, Japan and the US in order to contain China’s global influence may exacerbate some tensions at global level. India being part of this quad may pursue its strategic objective against China’s B & R initiative.
India here has certain doubts about Chinese aims to deploy Gwadar in the medium to long term as a dual use port, allowing the PLA key access into the Indian Ocean as well as bolstering Pakistan’s ability to deter any Indian advantage in the naval realm.
The Pakistani port of Gwadar, built, financed and operated by China is located at the union of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, providing China access to a key location in the Indian Ocean.
In between all these states, Pakistan being an important part of China’s Belt and Road initiative can maximize it maritime security fittingly. Pakistan navy is likely to buy eight more diesel-electric attack submarines from China in near future. These are scheduled for delivery in 2028 to maximize Pakistan’s maritime security as a defensive measure. It may direct a response to India’s August 2016 deployment of its first nuclear submarine, the Arihant. A second, even more advanced Indian nuclear submarine, the Arighat, began sea trials last November, and four more boats are scheduled to join the fleet by 2025. That will give India a ‘nuclear triad,’ which means the country will have the ability to deliver a nuclear strike by land-based missiles, by warplanes, and by submarines. The submarine is the key component. It’s considered the most “survivable” in the event of a devastating first strike by an enemy, and thus able to deliver a retaliatory second strike.
Lastly, Both China and Pakistan will be able to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean so that India’s attempt to get an advantage in the IO can be counterbalanced. If, supposedly, that advantage will go unnoticed, there would be more chance of the nuclearisation
When it comes to India and Pakistan, by contrast, the new generation of nuclear submarines may increase the risk of a devastating war between the two longstanding enemies.
The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Islamabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Daily Times, May 24th 2018.