In the Arabian Sea, Competing Ports in Iran and Pakistan Fuel Ambition and Mistrust

Jun 10, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

The Chinese-funded Pakistani port of Gwadar is slated to become the largest shipping port of South Asia by 2022.

The Pakistani port of Gwadar is located in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which serves as a vital branch of China's massive Belt and Road Initiative.



  • China’s expansion across South Asia and the Indian Ocean under its Belt and Road Initiative will drive India’s own regional outreach, heightening the importance of New Delhi's infrastructure projects such as the Chabahar port in Iran.
  • However, the threat of U.S. sanctions and the war in Afghanistan risk thwarting Indo-Iranian cooperation on the port project.
  • Meanwhile, China's closer ties with Pakistan means its own port project in Gwadar is more assured.

On the eastern edge of the Arabian Sea, a pair of ports located just 160 kilometers apart (roughly 100 miles) lies at the heart of a multifaceted struggle for power among regional heavyweights in South Asia. For India, the Chinese-funded Gwadar port in Pakistan has heightened its concerns of encirclement under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This has fueled New Delhi to secure its own infrastructure projects across the Indian Ocean, including Iran’s Chabahar port. Meanwhile, for Pakistan, India's growing presence in nearby Iran feeds into its own concerns of encirclement. Iran -- which counts India, Pakistan and China as partners -- recently floated the idea of linking the two ports. However, such a juncture is highly unlikely because of these vying global strategies. The grandiose visions of spurring greater economic prosperity will instead continue to propel the two ports' development for years to come, even as both projects face key...

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