Geopolitics, Energy, and Development of China's External Pipeline Transport Linkages(The Indian Subcontinent and Middle East)

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In the last decade, three overland pipeline subsystems linking China with oil and natural gas producing countries have been built. This breakthrough is analysed and published from the twin perspectives of “energy security” and “geopolitics” in Vol. 1 and 2 of the series on the subject, corresponding spatially to Northeast Asia, Central Asia and Caucasus. In full circle round China counter-clockwise but for the southeast coastal provinces, this edition shifts to the third quadrant in space or the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East. The bulk of studies reported in this volume contains pipeline routing options across ISME, transport logistics, and the “Beijing-Washington” nexus in power politics. Unfold of this process, the author argues, depends on the interplay of a complexity of region-specific factors. The driving force owes as much from China’s energy diplomacy, superior task execution capability, and locational advantage in accessing resources abroad as from its determination in strategic pipeline construction. The trans-Afghanistan pipe project consisting of four partners (TAPI) tops the agenda as it has received backing both from the ADB and the US. It has failed nevertheless thus far to attract interested investors, due partly to persistent “Delhi-Islamabad” rift and partly to the post-2001 Afghan unrest. There is also the triplet China-bound “sea-land” combined undertakings (CM, TEC, IP) based on upstream suppliers Myanmar, Iran and other countries. All three are capable of bridging and short-circuiting the more distant seaborne oil flows via the Indian Ocean to the Middle East, sidestepping the Malacca Strait and adjacent sea lanes where the US fleets are patrolling. The new corridor can also diversify the sources, means, and ways of the traditional West-East energy trade by transshipping a part of the tanker delivery overland at newly-built gateways in Myanmar and Pakistan, thereby curtailing delivery risks on high seas. As such, they will no longer be exposed to possible blockade or threat either from belligerent naval forces or pirates. Yet they will be exposed to a different set of problems, including partners default, resettlement of residents en route pipelines, natural calamities, and day-to-day operation of the pipeline system. Concomitant with diversion of trade the nature of security threat will be transformed, i.e. from the traditional to the nontraditional ones. The route configuration of pipes will be shaped by the bilateral relations between the US and China, given India, Iran, Pakistan and other proxies acting as rebalancing parameters. From the point of view of the US, itself a desperate power undergoing precipitous decline, Beijing’s upcoming success in accessing Middle East oil by land is surely annoying. This being so since, for decades, the US strategists are obsessed with a stereotyped containment policy towards China and a “divide-and-rule” policy towards the numerous pariah states in ISME. But Washington could not solicit as much alliance in the region in circumventing China as it wishes. In contrast, China and its partners will prevail and prosper through energy-related cooperation and development along the ancient Silk Road. Land-locked western regions of China, Afghanistan and Central Asia will accordingly be linked with the littoral states in South and West Asia as an increasingly unified space jointly with enhanced common interests. Key Words:ISME,Geopolitics & Energy, Game, CM Pipeline, Silk Road, TEC

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