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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 42 New Delhi October 8, 2016

Gwadar and Chabahar: Rushing to the oil-and-trade precipice

Sunday 9 October 2016, by S G Vombatkere


Prime Minister Modi’s bringing up “Balochistan” during his August 15 address was criticised, especially since he omitted to mention the ongoing, acute crisis in Kashmir. While the validity of the criticism of omission may hold good, mentioning Balochistan could be a calculated move to reverse India’s traditional passivity against Pakistan’s aggressive India policy. India’s turning a spotlight on Balochistan has the possible disadvantage of Pakistan telling the international community that it confirms India’s hand in fomenting unrest in Balochistan.

Whether true or not, it heightens Pakistan’s fears of being reduced to minuscule size if Balochistan, comprising around 40 per cent of Pakistan’s present land area, is separated like East Pakistan was in 1971. Further, bringing Balochistan into the picture might change the decades-long India-Pakistan bilateral Kashmir dispute to international intervention, to Pakistan’s advantage. It also adds to China’s discomfiture as its access to the Gwadar port through Balochistan could be compromised.

But there are possible strategic advantages for India, which however call for careful and calibrated planning to work for our long-term advantage, including whether India handles Kashmir as a political problem or continues with its iron hand whether the gloves are velvet (sadbhavana) or off.

Oil-and-trade security

Noting that the China-built Gwadar port is on Pakistan’s Balochistan coast, India’s strategy should take into account the increasing India-China friction due to India’s lurch into the US embrace for military purchases, economics and foreign policy. Also there is the possibility of China and Pakistan opening up two formal or informal conflict fronts for India, with the shot-in-the-dark guess that it may suit China to enter into military conflict with India to divert its public attention from growingly unmanageable internal dissensions and conflicts. A similar shot-in-the-dark guess may apply to Pakistan as well as India! Either way, the military-industrial complexes of China, India and the USA would profit hugely from increase in conflict levels.

India hastening to sign the LEMOA (Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) with the USA concerns India gaining logistic access to US-controlled military stations in the Arabian Sea, reciprocally providing the US access to Indian military stations, a politically charged domestic issue. However, the USA is unhappy with India’s closer ties with Iran, especially the India-built Chabahar port, which is a mere 72-km west of Gwadar, providing closer watch over the Persian Gulf. Thus, India bringing Balochistan into the equation is a strategic move to counter Chinese influence in the Arabian Sea. It will enhance India’s oil security, opening trade routes for India from Chabahar to the Caspian Sea ports, into Russia and Europe, for Central Asian oil and gas for India via the International North-South Transport Corridor. [Ref. 1] Thus, India’s “Balochistan initiative” is in furtherance of its strategy of oil-and-trade security.

China’s “inner” string-of-pearls vis-á-vis India (Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Gwadar), its “outer” string-of-pearls (from Chongjin (North Korea) to Hambantota (Sri Lanka) to Luanda (Angola)), its land route to Gwadar, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), enhance China’s presence in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, and divert international pressure in the South China Sea. This is all about securing oil sources and opening trade routes into Central Asia and Europe. The growing China-Russia cosiness is about the NATO’s growing military threat on Russia’s western borders, the RMB-Ruble war against the USD, and also about China’s oil-and-trade needs with the Gulf region, Central Asia and Europe.

The oil-and-trade precipice

The strategic manoeuvring by India and China are directed at their oil-and-trade security. These are based upon the holy grail of economic growth centred on industrialisation and consumerism, with utter neglect (especially in India) of people-related social and economic issues. This is based upon failed neoliberal economic policy pursued worldwide, even as IMF has expressed its doubts. [Ref. 2]

The international community has been pursuing neoliberal economic growth in a race towards a social-economic-environment-ecology precipice, unmindful or ignorant of the twin triggers of the so-called “twilight of the oil age” [Ref. 3] and GW-CC (global warming and climate change). When this double-barrelled gun fires, it can pull out the rug from under present oil-and-trade, economic-growth based strategies adopted by all countries.

Indeed, viewing countries as growth-economies rather than the reality of poor-majority, inequality-affected nations plagued by conflict-migration and environment-migration, would possibly undergo change, as seriously lowered oil availability and transportation levels slash international trade and impinge on daily life across continents. Add the imponderables of RMB-Ruble-initiated collapse of the dollar-based international financial system, and nuclear winter following nuclear conflict—whether irresponsibly initiated by the USA-led NATO or Russia or some other agency like ISIS—as possible “collapse scenarios”, and the world’s future is bleak.

An international People’s Demand for “NO WAR” (conventional, nuclear, biological, chemical or cyber), together with wider political reali-sation of rapidly advancing GW-CC, could be a viable brake to the mindlessly competitive, relentless, lemming-like rush towards the brink of the precipice.


1. Jajati K. Pattnaik and R.P. Pradhan, “Chabahar: In the Grand Chessboard of India’s Geo-strategic Calculus”, Mainstream, New Delhi, Vol LIV, No. 31, July 23, 2016, pp. 31-35.

2. Vombatkere, S.G., “Neoliberalism: Its Reality Exposed”, Mainstream Weekly, <> ; Mainstream, New Delhi, Vol LIV, No. 30, July 16, 2016, pp. 5-9.

3. Louis Arnoux; The Twilight of the Oil Age; “Part-1; Alice looking down the end of the barrel”; <> ; “Part-2; Enquiring into the appropriateness of the question”; <> ; “Part-3; Standing slightly past the edge of the cliff”; <> ;

Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as an Additional DG Discipline and Vigilance in the Army HQ AG’s Branch. He is a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). With over 500 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his area of interest is strategic and development-related issues.

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