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Makran Gateways: A Strategic Reference for Gwadar and Chabahar

Philip Reid is Visiting Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • IDSA Occasional Paper No. 53
    2019

    The spirit of 'Connectivity', a salient motif in early-twenty first century international relations (IR), has provided an amenable context for a review of geo-determinism in IR theory and the defence of classical geopolitical models as analytical frameworks. No contemporary case study is perhaps more admissible in this regard than the scramble for connectivity leadership in Central and South Asia. The fascination with terrestrial alternatives to the global maritime economy is not new and is deeply rooted in the European Industrial Revolution and advent of the steam locomotive, and both 'Silk Road' revivalism and 'New Great Game' realism, have been popular embellishments in Eurasia lobbies since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This found renewed impetus with the extravagant launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 and the roll-out or revamping of a connectivity platform has become mandatory for any established or aspiring regional power. An ability to swiftly deliver low-cost, unconditional infrastructure solutions has provided Beijing with the strategic space to pursue a number of national objectives within the scope of a burgeoning leadership role in the developing world, not unlike that claimed by India during the Cold War. This is despite being a relative newcomer to the official connectivity milieu. The real and perceived implications of the PRC's new brand of foreign policy are perhaps most compelling in the Indian Ocean and Central Asia: two historical east-west thoroughfares that collectively constitute something of a final frontier checking Beijing's direct access to European markets and Gulf hydrocarbons. This paper examines the geopolitical context of two ports whose concurrent development has raised the strategic profile of the Makran Coast: the littoral interface between these integral geographic regions and the two sub-components of the Belt and Road Initiative. As conspicuous markers for a number of overlapping regional rivalries, Gwadar and Chabahar provide a succinct and localized dichotomy for the analysis of the twenty-first century connectivity phenomenon.

    About The Author

    Philip Reid has recently concluded a service career in the British Armed Forces and was a Visiting Fellow with the IDSA's West Asia Centre in late-2018. He is currently a pre-doctoral candidate at King's College London and is a member of the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Philip read Classical Persian Literature for his MA and maintains a wider interest in Islamic languages and culture. His present research encompasses the political economy of strategic infrastructure initiatives in Central and South Asia as well as a broader critique of classical realism.

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