CPEC, Chabahar – Will There Be Another Quarter Final Between Two Arch Rivals?

By Marwa Mehboob.

Who will lead the points table, who will be the highest scorer, who will be the highest wicket taker all this so on and so forth? But what eventually comes on the points table is opposite to the wishes and prayers of millions of Pakistani fans. Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of India in the World Cup quarter finals inevitably activates shock and manifestation of sentiments. This reflection of sentiments clearly indicates the level of optimism at both the ends thus concluding the fact that there has never been and shall never be a sweetening encounter between the two arch rivals.

An India-Pakistan cricket encounter is about great honour and prestige of highest levels. All this and more indicators of absolute and sheer magnificence and grandeur are fortunately subjected to a cricket field instead of the border. We can call it the beauty of sports where all passions are met with grace and dignity.

Having said this, cricket phobia on both sides of the border is nothing less than a heart breaking scenario. Where you will find the cricket chauvinists deeply involved in discussing and celebrating the pre and post match scenario.

Now, what if we relate the two arch rivals in terms of CHABHAR AND GAWADER OR CHABHAR VS GAWADER to bring in the air of passion and spirit prevailing between the two countries just like in quarter finals of the cricket world cup.

I would certainly be cheering and supporting my side but of course with logic and strong affirmations. So, let me take a start by saying that it won’t be an easy target for the sides supporting the agreement of Chabhar. As Gawader on the other hand has all that it takes to build a strong and comprehensive innings to devoid its opponents of strategical edge.

We can’t deny the fact that the two ports represent longstanding rivalries and great level of expectancy for enormous geo-strategic competition in the region. The meet has been taking hype in the Arabian Sea centered between two ports, one based in Pakistan and the other in Iran. The first is sponsored by China and the later one by India. The port based in Pakistan Gwadar, is studied to give China access to the Indian Ocean whereas the second, Chabahar, is supposed to couple India to Afghanistan and challenge the partnership of Pakistan and China.

Gwadar port with its nearness to the crucial sea lane between the Middle East and China, has strategic importance for China, significantly for oil trade. Another very essential point is the direct access to the Indian Ocean which can help China to harmonize their problems pertaining to transportation and military. Here its quite logical to say that the best option for China in this regard is Pakistan because of its location and comradeship with Pakistan. Gwadar port is a threat to India, which was clearly evident when in 2002 Indian assistance helped Iran to expand the port of Chabahar, located 72 kilometers west of Gwadar and that initiative was taken soon after China began work at Gwadar. India’s response to Gwadar came with developing rail, roads and port infrastructure near the border of Afghanistan. Considering that it could brace Iran’s impact in Afghanistan, primarily among the Shia and non-Pashtun racial groups. We have witnessed in the past that India has always tried to discard Pakistan from any such offer which has the potential to exemplify Pakistan on the map of the world. And same goes in the case of Chabhar where India has engaged Iran to keep Pakistan away from becoming one of the stakeholders. If we look into it with another angle, Iran being a Muslim country may have other issues with India. Among them is India’s military relations with US, the way India is using Iranian soil to vandalize and harbor Baloch terrorists to continuously destabilize Pakistan’s position in the region. On the other hand if we see Iran and China’s relationship in the past there are cases which can be adduced. Iran itself may not want to take any risk at estranging China, a country which has supported Tehran, including its nuclear policy. There can be more combustible elements in this Indo-Iranian agreement. Afghanistan is a country which is politically unstable and may not oblige Iran and India if the Taliban or any Pakistan-supported government is reinstated. The US and India may agree on the need to counter growing Chinese influence in Gwadar, but may also disagree on the policy India wants to pursue by joining hands with Iran. It will not be an easy equation for India with Iran a country with sparkling Muslim credentials. Speaking of China-India encounter, the heart of the matter is that India is not in the same league with China. China’s economy is far stable and larger than India.

This deep-sea port would not only provide Beijing with a strategic base but also allow Pakistan to reap it’s benefits both strategically and economically. Those who wish that India will become a major power that rivals Pak-China economic corridor are falling into major fallacy which simply believes in things that are not real.

I have been following the Pakistan cricket team ever since I can remember. From the grieving loss against India in the 1996 till the clinical performance in 2015 world cup maintaining their unbeaten record against the arch-rivals in the mega events. But I never felt cynical in any of those stinging moments. Rather they reanimated my love for the game.

Assuming that CPEC will be a game changer in the region and hoping that this time Pakistan will fracture the world cup jinx against arch rivals by making a significant move that will lubricate the CPEC and the result of Gwadar VS Chabhar would be opposite to those in the world cup quarterfinals.

Marwah Mehboob writes on social and political issues and is a media analyst. She can be reached at Twitter; @marwahmehboob

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