Indo-Pacific Region: A Battleground of Developed and Growing Economies

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Lahore, 20th June: Both the Pacific Ocean and Indian ocean are rich in natural resources. Huge oil resources make them of great importance.

Not only this but the important main trade points/chokepoints are also there in the Indian ocean namely Straits of Hormuz (situated between Iran and Oman), Strait of Malacca (lies between Indonesia and Malaysia), and Strait of Bab el Mandab (situated between Djibouti and Yemen).

According to some estimations, the world’s 40 percent oil is traded through the Strait of Hormuz. Other Straits are also of great economic and strategic attention.

World’s 80 percent trade is done through the Indian ocean that is made possible through these three main Straits. If any country imports oil, then it must be routed through either of these three Straits.

For example, China imports oil to her country then it would be routed through the Strait of Hormuz, and China imports 80% of its oil from this Strait. Keeping in mind China’s new face as a growing economy and if this chokepoint is blocked then one can evaluate the degree of loss to China’s economy. Therefore, the Straits are important for the countries for their sustainable survival.

The Strait of Bab el Mandeb is a gateway of the economy to the European countries and the US. US trade is done through the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb however there is another route for the Europe and US but that is more away and doing trade through Cape of Good Hope would cost much for the trade-in terms of money and pirates.

The Somalian pirates are active in this route. However, Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) 151 and 152 are made by some allied-states to prevent their activities but of no gain to some extent.

For example, the US spends $1,000 to trade through the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Bab el Mandeb route, and if it adopts the trade route of Cape of Good Hope then it would cost her $10,000 along with the threat from Somalian pirates.

And for China the vulnerability in global politics is high. China has only one route of trade i.e., the Strait of Malacca. China trades oil through the Strait of Malacca to the Strait of Hormuz and if any of these Straits blocks for instance then China will expect to bear a huge loss and the economic downfall.

However, China is a growing economic country and trying to uphold its will to make a stronghold in the Indian ocean. China’s efforts are threatening the US and the US thinks that China may hamper its hegemonic stability in the world and at least her allies in Asia like India.

The interests of ocean players are economic. The US seeks to safeguard the Strait of Bab el Mandeb and wishes to stop China from trading through the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Hormuz. And China conceptualized to save its trade route; Straits. And to make it possible, all players are applying different strategies.

China’s strategy is String of Pearls which aims to make seaports in different countries. The Chittagong in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri-Lanka, Gwadar, and Djibouti. When one connects these seaports, it portrays that India is encircled in the String of Pearl policy. And it is unrealistic to ignore that India is a hardcore strategic partner of the US. And therefore the US wants to keep India ready to counter to China because it does not have a direct authoritative place in the String of Pearls but China is bordered with India.

Whereas Indian strategy revolves around the Neckless of Diamond policy. Implementing it brings up the development of Naval bases near the place it shares a border with China, Mauritius, radar station in Madagascar (the world’s second-largest island), Seychelles, and base in Chabahar (though Iran has kicked out it for the time being) but it is part of India’s Necklace of Diamonds strategy.

Comparing policy of both players, it emerges that China is more strategist in this economic rivalry and geopolitical prominence. China encircles India whereas India has no such valuable superiority in terms of geographical threat.      

China has also another threat within her country in the South China Sea (SCS) in Pacific Ocean littoral states (countries situated along the coastal line/border) like the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. However, China says that their Exclusive Economic Zone is separate and it does not lie among littoral states’ EEZ. 

China argues that SCS is her property descending from their ancient rulers and no country showed concern in those days when it drew 11 dashes (- -) in 1945 which then reduced nine (9) that authorizes that SCS in her property. 

The question is now who is threatening China in SCS region too? The answer is the US. It has deployed its 60 percent of total naval command on the Indo-Pacific region and launched Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONO) there. Yes, undoubtedly the US is more concerned with being a strong navy force rather than other forces i.e., army or air.

This deployed force is charged with blocking the Strait of Malacca in order to give tough time to China. The US also wished to unite with littoral states to increase the volume of isolation for China. The US is very engaged in making China isolated economically because China is a threatening challenge to the US and seems that it will be playing a very crucial role in world politics.

In my opinion, Pakistan is very close in friendship with China. Pakistan should focus on increasing investment opportunities in the country by making friendly relations with China and its allies. China would also help Pakistan in tough when it appears.

Do not forget that Pakistan is one of the main contributors to China’s growing economy as it made a historical business deal with China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which shows China’s regional stability in the battle for economic empowerment through Asia. 

The writer is a policy analyst and researcher. Email: Tweet:@furqanppolicy 

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