Rashid A Mughal
CURRENT global situation and future predicting pundits agree that Asia is going to be the most important region on this earth by 2022. Within Asia some countries due to their sheer economic might and prowess will surpass many developed countries in Europe, Americas and Africa in terms of their GDP and economic and political clout. The reference here is to China which has within 20 years risen from 13th position in terms of GDP in 1970 to number one position in 2019. Its exports rose from $141.6 Billion in 1995 to $2293.7 in 2012, surpassing US exports of $ 2243.5, becoming the largest World exporter. In 2019 Chinese exports touched $2498.5 as compared to US exports of partly $1645.17. Pakistan’s close relations with China and participation in “OBOR” initiative and CPEC project make Pakistan strategically very important to China due to its ideal location. China will have direct and faster access to its export markets using the Gwadar Port and thus enhancing Pakistan’s position as a pivotal state due to its unique location. Gwadar Port will also be a faster raw material route for China compared to its present South China sea-route which has become a tension-zone in view of increased American presence and its imperialistic designs and hegemonic agenda which they want to implement through India.
The fact remains that development of many countries in Asia will directly depend on China and in-directly on Pakistan as bulk of Chinese import-export trade will be through Gwadar, Pakistan. All Central Asian States are land-locked and the nearest port accessible to them will be Gwadar in Pakistan. As astounding as it may sound to most observers, the global pivot state of the 21st century is not China, the USA, nor Russia, but Pakistan. An objective look at the country’s geo-strategic and domestic capabilities reveals that it’s in a prime position to influentially shape the contours of the coming century. Pakistan’s promising economic potential, international connectivity capabilities and unparalleled geo-strategic location combine with its world-class military and proven diplomatic finesse over the decades to turn the South Asian country into the global pivot state of the 21st Century.
It, therefore, should not be surprising that China had the foresight to partner with it decades before anyone else did, but other Great Powers like Russia are finally awakening to its importance, and this is in turn making Pakistan the most strategically sought-after country in the world. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is Beijing’s flagship project of its world-changing Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) because it crucially enables the People’s Republic to avoid the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca hot spots and obtain reliable access to the Mideast and Africa.
BRI is redirecting global trade routes from West to East and literally building the basis for the emerging Multi-polar World Order, so considering Pakistan’s irreplaceable important role in this process by virtue of CPEC, China’s South Asian partner can be re-conceptualized as the cornerstone of Beijing’s future world vision. This in itself makes Pakistan pivotal, but there’s actually much more to it than just that. The country’s domestic economic potential is extremely promising when remembering that it’s a nation of over 200 million people uniquely positioned at the crossroads of China’s future trade route with the rest of the “Global South”. It’s little wonder then that major investment players such as Saudi Arabia and UAE are jumping at the opportunity to take part in this before any of their competitors can, wanting to get ahead of race by establishing a premier presence in Pakistan as it becomes the shortest trade route between their economies and China’s.
Prophetically, Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah predicted all of this when he famously proclaimed in 1948 that “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, placed on the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves”, and each passing day proves that he was right. Contemporary international relations are shaped by an intricate and to a certain extent uneasy co-existing mixture of liberal and realist logics. On the one hand, there are many signs pointing towards inexorably growing interdependencies between states that pave the way to prosperity and peace. On the other hand, there are similar signs that states seem not able to escape realist logic: they persist in pursuing power. Moreover, states are increasingly drawing lines again, lines with respect to whom they talk to, whom they trade with, and whom they defend against. A change in a pivot state’s association has important repercussions for regional and global security. States that find themselves in overlapping spheres of interest are focal points of where great power interests can collide and also clash. States located at the seams of the international system have at various moments in history been crucial to the security and stability of the international system. Approximately two dozen pivot states tracked show how they have sat in and then shifted from one sphere of influence to another over the past thirty years. A few pivot states energetically mould their immediate security environment pulling considerable weight at the international stage.
Pivotal states are, sometimes, challengers of existing norms of regional orders and cause wider ideological ruptures in the system. Shifting pivot states can dramatically upstage the regional balance of power and upset regional peace and stability. Hence, differences in ideological orientation continue to create strategic opportunities that carry a wide range of security ramifications for old and new powers alike. There are also states that actively try to position themselves as crucial mediators that build bridges and gateways between different great powers, or even across perceived civilisational chasms that cleave through the international system. The UAE in the Middle East, Kazakhstan in Central Asia and Indonesia in South East Asia fulfil pivot states or attempt to fulfil such a role in the international system. Relations with these states can be cultivated, if the aim is to effect change beyond the bilateral relationship.
Other pivot states are more passively pushed around and pressured into associations with great powers. Trapped in ‘crush zones’, or ‘shatter belts’, these states are indeed fragile, needy and occasionally capricious. As a rule, they feature political instability and low levels of social and economic development. Seldom are they also endowed with plenty of natural resources. From Venezuela to Uzbekistan down to Iraq: they are found scattered around the world. Whatever the policy aim – whether it is the promotion of good governance or the uninterrupted access to their resources – before setting down on any policy path, it is worth asking whose sphere of influence these pivot states belong to. Some, despite being in dire straits, should not be abandoned. All these roles are crucial for understanding how pivotal States can, if not necessarily will, shape the security environment. And it is these roles that policy-makers should take a closer look at before formulating policies that will shape security environment.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.