Why is the Indian Ocean Vital for Pakistan’s Economic Interest?

The Indian Ocean is among the world’s largest oceans comprising nearly one‐fifth of the waters of the world. It is bounded by Asia on the north, Africa on west and Australia on the east. But why is the Indian Ocean Vital for Pakistan’s Economic Interest?

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Pakistan is also one of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean who also lay claim to the waters of the Indian Ocean. The commercial opportunities, connectivity and the resources prompt Pakistan to secure its economic interests in the Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, the limited lines of land communication in the eastern hemisphere have increased the importance of the areas attached to the ocean. Trade and commerce are the most significant variables, especially to the strategic choke points where the Indian Ocean is contiguous to other large bodies of water. Among the important choke points of the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Hormuz and the Mallaca are crucial for a plethora of Asian nations.

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Pakistan shares a 990km long coastline located at the heart of the Arabian Sea and is among the major littoral states of Indian Ocean region. It has a bulk of marine economic resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Its Western coast adjacent to the Gulf makes it strategically important by providing shortest sea route to the landlocked Central Asian Nations, Afghanistan and Western Province of China. Due to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC Project), the Indian Ocean assumes even more significance for Pakistan.

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Defending its economic interests in the IOR is important for Pakistan as almost 97% of Pakistan’s trade is carried out through the port of Karachi, Muhammad Bin Qasim, Gawadar, Pasni, Jiwani, Gadani and Ormara. Extended coastline and strategically located harbours present Pakistan with a location that is perfect for trade. Pakistan‘s role in global navigation, the EEZ and Gwadar port are extremely important for the country‘s economic development.

In the current power dynamic, China’s OBOR initiative and CPEC Project give momentum to the Indian naval forces to cripple Pakistan’s interests. CPEC and Gwadar port has the potential to make Pakistan into an economic hub of trade and development which hurts the Indian interest. Consequently, this situation has also catalyzed India’s intention to harm Pakistan’s economy, and acquiring the nuclear triad will provide Pakistan with a second strike capability and it will reduce the chances of a war.

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Pakistan has always been following a defensive strategy and a strong Naval force with powerful second strike capability will deter any threats that Pakistan might encounter. Furthermore, it will prove a more secure and safe environment for the foreign investors as Gwadar bridges the east to the west. The economic progress of Pakistan through CPEC Project presents an opportunity to considerably improve the trade between Eastern, West Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European Nations with Pakistan. Hence, it has become utmost vital for Pakistan to protect the Indian Ocean.

Opinion Penned by Qurat Hashmi, Pakistan. The author can be contacted 
at quraathashmi@gmail.com