The new Chinese government is firmly in power. President Xi Jinping’s government has taken its first tangible and decisive steps in the international arena.
These steps indicate a continuation of policies to further strengthen the economy. They acknowledge too the potential implications of the US strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific and the economic and strategic connotations of the possible closure of the Malacca Straits. This highlights the Chinese need to diversify and secure their future supplies of fossil fuels and mineral resources ‘independent’ of this significant maritime bottleneck.
Not surprisingly, Russia was the first port of call of President Xi, followed by a trip to Africa that culminated in the BRICS summit.
Russia is emerging as a major energy supplier to China.
The Chinese have a projected gap of 150 bcm of gas in 2020. The current deals with Russia would bring in about 30 bcm with an option to increase it to 60 bcm. Russia will increase its oil supplies to a million barrels per day. While China will invest in the development of coal resources and related infrastructure in East Serbia and the Russian Far East.
China signed scores of deals with the Republic of Congo and Tanzania that generally covered oil and untapped mineral resources.
The Chinese, however, could further secure their energy and mineral supplies from the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) and the Middle East too.
The CARs, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan are abundantly rich in energy and mineral resources. The latter two have huge mineral resources albeit untapped. The Chinese have the financial resources (China Development Bank), the need and the will to exploit these energy and mineral resources for mutual benefit.
China is already financing the Kazakhstan-China oil as well as the Trans-Asia gas pipelines. Russia will also be constructing a cross-frontier oil pipeline. Iran could supply additional gas and oil to Xinjiang Province through Pakistan. Thus, a substantial part of China’s fossil fuel requirements could be met independent of the Malacca Straits.
The mineral reserves of Afghanistan and Pakistan could meet most of China’s industrial requirements. Afghan mineral wealth has been estimated at between $1-3 trillion with enormous reserves of lithium, in particular. Pakistan’s mineral riches may be even higher. These have, however, attracted the unwarranted attention of some US Congressmen whose actions have generated trouble in Balochistan. Their intentions have so obviously been to first create troubled waters and then fish in them.
Vast deposits of fossil fuels, copper and gold and many other rare ones have been discovered at Saindak, Reko Diq and other unexploited sites. Pakistan and China could exploit these riches to meet their mutual requirements for the long run.
Pakistan also has over a billion tons of coal deposits at Thar, Sindh. This could be used to generate enormous amounts of electricity, industrial activity and exports.
The Makran Coast and its hinterland must be developed under a long-term, two-pronged vision; it should aim to first develop critical infrastructure in Balochistan extending road and rail networks westwards, northwestwards and northwards; then it must aim to invite foreign and domestic investment to exploit the natural riches of Pakistan for common benefit. Robust economic activity should bring in a peaceful environment dealing a death blow to militancy and terrorism and even help defeat foreign meddling in Balochistan in particular from the CIA-MI6-RAW-Mossad-NDS combine.
Pakistan and China must decisively develop Gwadar, Ormara, Pasni, Jiwani, Port Qasim and Karachi as world class ports of immense economic and strategic significance.
The Arab States, Iran, Turkey, China, Russia and CARs could be encouraged to invest in the development of the infrastructure of the hinterland with power plants and a vast network of roads and railways linking the Makran coastline to Iran and Turkey one the one hand, and the CARs and Russia on the other. A separate north-south trade corridor staying west of the River Indus (road, railways, oil and gas pipelines) could be created between China and Pakistan linking the Xinjiang province with the Makran hinterland. The New Silk Road Project must of necessity swing south and connect itself with the Makran coastline.
Keeping in mind the vast amounts of minerals in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a series of special economic and industrial zones could be specifically created in the Makran hinterland for China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Arab States, etc. These industrial and economic zones should be required to only export value added products to the whole world. The first right to jobs must of necessity go to the people of Balochistan, who should have been already trained for the specific purpose of working in these economic zones.
This matter could also be broached at the SCO forum if need be!
The Makran hinterland should also be developed into a trading hub for fossil fuels. Oil and gas pipelines must converge onto in Gwadar and surrounding areas from the Middle East, from Iran and the CARs. Thence, they should travel to China and even India. (The Indian Minister has recently shown a desire to rejoin the IP gas pipeline project. Pakistan must only allow India to rejoin this and other projects - “if the price is right.” Else they can watch the world go by from the sidelines. Period).
The IP and TAP (I-?) gas pipelines must of necessity be converted into an IPC (I-?) and a TAPC (I-?) pipeline. Iran has already announced the establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar. The Arab States and CARs must also be encouraged to do likewise. The CARs should be encouraged to refine and export their fossil fuels through the various ports on the Makran Coast. Similarly, Russia’s historic quest for all-weather warm water ports be fulfilled by encouraging it to use the Makran Coast for its substantial exports and imports.
A planned and visionary development of the Makran hinterland could bring in limitless prosperity to the peoples of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the region and beyond.
Pakistan and China’s interests converge here massively. They must be manifested in the rapid development of the Makran hinterland for mutual and regional benefit.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand. Currently, he is on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).     Email: im_k@hotmail.com