American wings to Gwadar
The importance of Gwadar Port will not merely benefit Pakistan, it would also spread economic activities in the region. Gwadar Port would prove to be a turning point in international politics. Countries such as China, India, Iran and Middle Eastern States, Central Asian States, Russia, United States and other international players will also be affected. All these states have their own strategic, military, economic and political interests involved whether directly or indirectly.
Gwadar Port Project also harbors interests of the United States towards the South Asian region. The United States will try to keep peace in the region to maintain its influence and power over regional affairs but the US is also prepared for any potential military action with North Asia or the Persian Gulf. Even after the Cold War, America has been constantly developing its armory with more efficient weapons and quick response teams. The Pentagon is working hard in maintaining its power in the world and planning to keep the uni-polarity in the international community by monitoring and eliminating any activities that may be a potential threat. The strategy adopted by the United States is fairly diplomatic but a world with uni-polarity is possible to take unstable forms. While Charles Krauthammer argues that uni-polarity might be stable for the world, yet no country, including the United States, will be able to maintain the title of ‘the Great Power’ for long. Any Great Power or sole Superpower will fall short of the essential qualities after a time span. Yet the United States is maintaining its involvement in the activities of the Persian Gulf region. The country has placed its forces alongside the Middle Easter forces in the Persian Gulf since 1949. Similarly the United States has always been and will continue to be involved in the regional affairs of South Asia as well. The interests of the United States in this region can be explained by the presence of the Chinese interests in the region as well. China is a country on its way to becoming the next superpower and may replace America soon enough, with the economy of the United States draining on account of its various conflicts spread in several nations. Hence, China is seen as a threat to America and many interests of the Chinese lie in the regions of South Asia, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. China can access all these regions through Gwadar Port which is why China is working so hard on its development and progress. In turn, the United States is taking interest in the region. The United States and China have not yet directly shown any direct political conflicts or disagreements and any actions causing destabilization in the region have been avoided but it is feared that on the completion of Gwadar port, political tensions will build in the region.
The United States gets its supply of oil from its ally, Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has 261 billion barrels of oil reserves, which is over a quarter of the world’s oil reserve, and one trillion barrels obtainable from fields. After the Great Arab Oil Embargo in 1972-74, many Western countries including the United States used the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) as defense in the case of an oil crisis. In November 2001, President Bush planned to fill the SPR to its full capacity of 700 million barrels and the United States imports consisted of 54% oil imports out of which 30% came from the Persian Gulf. The United States economy, strategic security and prosperity relies on the constant supply of oil. The 9/11 attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda, which consisted mainly of Saudi citizens, has created tension between US-Arab relations. This tension has caused the United States to prepare and utilize an alternate source of oil supply in case there are any future hindrances from Saudi Arabia. The United States is looking towards the Central Asian Republic countries (CARs). Once the United States develops a trade route to CARs, CARs will become the strategic alternative for the United States oil supply and other natural resources. The natural wealth of CARs can be transported through Gwadar Port to links in Afghanistan and out to other countries for trade. This is another reason which pulls the interests of the United States to Gwadar port. The Energy Information Administration stated that the trade of natural wealth of the Central Asian States would be strategically best via the Arabian Sea by a route through Afghanistan. This statement was presented before the 9/11 attacks and the Global War on Terrorism. The military operations in Afghanistan have greatly caused challenges in the political planning but the United States still hopes to utilize Afghanistan for the potential firms and industries that can be established in the country. In December 2002, the New York Times reported that the United States plans to run economically beneficial projects in the region. The conditions and government of Afghanistan will decide if the oil trading routes will run through its terrain or not. In such conditions, the influence of Pakistan on the Afghanistan government comes into play. Pakistan can be used by the USA to influence Afghanistan for such projects. Pakistan’s Gwadar port will play a major role in the transportation and trade of the oil supply from CARs to Afghanistan. Even though there are many industrialists who are suggesting that it would be better to run oil supply routes through Iran rather than Afghanistan, it is highly unlikely because the United States will not allow Iran such strategic power. Iran is already a competitor in the region and running the oil supply lines through it will further make matter more complicated for the politics of the USA.
The United States does not only have its interests in the Middle East due to the oil supplies alone. The Pentagon is planning off-shore military bases around the region for monitoring any and every activity in the Gulf States. The USA always wishes to be dominant in the regional and international matters. It can therefore be said that the United States is interested in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The United States will further construct naval bases around the region due to the discontentment in the Middle Eastern States and their non-compliance in allowing military land bases in the region. The presence of the United States military in the region will have its effects on Gwadar.
The United States will be interested in placing its military personnel in Gwadar to maintain “security”. While the upside is security against terrorism or extremist acts of the Baloch insurgents, the downside is the political uproar which will take place. China will oppose the decision of Pakistan to agree to such a case. China might in turn locate its own military in Gwadar to secure its strategic operations and trade. China might put its naval forces in the Indian Ocean for the same purpose but the United States will feel threatened by such activities, especially activities that concern the Persian Gulf. As outlined by President Carter in 1980, “any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf Region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and such assault will be repelled by any means necessary including military force.” China does not pose a threat as severe as the Russian Federation but China is one of the powerful states in the region and has a lot of influence. United State’s affairs and activities in Asia may face challenges if China desires it to be so. If China increases its military personnel in Gwadar to secure the trade and activities at the port and the United States desires to monitor the activities in the Indian Ocean for its own strategic benefits, then there is bound to be some minor to potential major conflicts because the United States will intervene in the matters between Pakistan and China regarding Gwadar Port. The United States has a tendency to “shape the environment” in its own strategic benefit for economic strength and influence.
Pakistan needs the presence and influence of the United States in the region to ensure security. The security will further ensure the stability of the region and the success of the Gwadar Port Project and its allied projects. The presence and influence of the Chinese military will also do the same. China is the major stakeholder of the Gwadar Port project and will most likely use its military for the completion as well as utilization of the port.
The South Asian region has had enough of its share of confusion without realizing that the respective strategies and economies may receive a crippling blow by a severe armed conflict and cause a setback. India needs to welcome that United States and Chinese interests in their common relationship far balance the interests of each vis-à-vis India, and both have high strategic and economic stakes in the Indian Ocean region. Pakistan strongly needs to implement a balanced approach by ensuring stability, security and cooperation rather than being involved in conflict and confrontation with its neighboring states such as India, Afghanistan and Iran, along with the international community.