$400bn China-Iran deal to be a game changer ! | By Hussain Janjua


$400bn China-Iran deal to be a game changer !

IRAN and China a few days back signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement addressing economic issues amid crippling U.S. sanctions on Iran, dubbed as the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership it covers a variety of economic activity from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations.

The deal marked the first time Iran has signed such a lengthy agreement with a major world power.

In 2001, Iran and Russia had signed a 10-year cooperation agreement, mainly in the nuclear field, that was lengthened to 20 years through two five-year extensions.

Osama al-Sharif, an Arab News analyst, wrote that the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement between China and Iran would have a long-term impact on the overall geopolitical balance in the Gulf and the region while the agreement would also allow China to deploy 5,000 security and military personnel on Iranian soil, a regional game changer.

The agreement is signed at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington are strained and at the same time it has also given Tehran a strong position viz-a-viz West’s renegotiation of Iran’s nuclear deal and its efforts to expand it.

Although the United States official reaction to the 25-year long and comprehensive economic cooperation plan between China and Iran worth $400 billion has not yet been revealed, analysts are calling this development an important “game changer” not only for the region but in the global economic system.

Pakistani diplomats and analysts who closely watch the issue reject the general impression in Pakistan that China is now focusing on Iran, saying that the recent Agreement on Economic Cooperation between China and Iran will not be an alternative to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) rather it will strengthen it.

Tehran has tried to build long-term economic and infrastructure with China to become a powerful country by working on security issues, but experts say in doing so it could also become a victim of new US sanctions.

Though the documents of the deal have not yet been revealed, but according to details, the $ 400 billion projects in Iran’s economy could go a long way in bringing economic stability in the next 25 years.

In return, China will be able to buy oil, gas and petrochemical products from Iran at discounted rates. In addition, Beijing is also going to invest in Iran’s financial, transport and communications sectors.

According to Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute, the Iran-China Strategic Agreement is a good development for the region and is also in Pakistan’s interest, as it will strengthen regional economic cooperation that is central to Pakistan, the CPEC project under the Belt and Road Initiative.

China has always avoided support or opposition from anyone in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and China also signed substantial economic agreements a year ago, but the key to China’s latest deal with Iran is that it shows that US sanctions have moved Tehran more strongly into the Chinese camp than isolating her.

Therefore, the importance of this agreement is not only for the region, but it has other dimensions like contesting the global power.

“China’s investment plan with Iran is part of its $8 trillion BRI projects, including a CPEC,” says Iqbal Ahmed Khan, former Ambassador of Pakistan and a teacher of diplomacy and international relations at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

According to the former ambassador China’s investment in Iran is not a competitor with CPEC in Pakistan it is Chinese investment in both the cases and will be a source of support for each other and benefit all three countries.

Both China and Iran are friends with Pakistan so Pakistan wants the success of this project. The direct benefit of China’s Iran cooperation will be to Pakistan.

Iran’s oil, which currently arrives in China after a distance of 13,000 miles, will reach China by a safe route of 1,500 miles through Pakistan.

He said That China’s Investment in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Other Asian Countries and Investment in economic and trade infrastructure are solid signs of the world’s shifting power centre, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and Pakistan and Iran are playing a key role in this process of global change and the US sanctions also have a role in the process of change that will give these countries a role pushing the other way.

—The writer is a senior media professional, analyst and a non-resident fellow of Chengdu Institute of World Affairs (CIWA).