China is wading into Pakistan and Iran as part of its New Silk Road project. There is no assurance the chaos that plagues much of that region won’t overwhelm China. From Dr. Lawrence Sellin at southasiahudson.org:
The Iran-Pakistan border contains all the ingredients for a geopolitical explosion – regional rivalries, Sunni-Shia conflicts, ethnic insurgents, espionage, drug smuggling and human trafficking.
China considers the stability of the region so important that it brokered a series of border security meetings between Iran and Pakistan over the past year.
Much of China’s multi-billion-dollar investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) hinges on the commercial viability of the Pakistani port of Gwadar, near the Iranian border, for which it has a 40-year operational lease. Moreover, CPEC is the regional linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan to connect Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa to China through a series of land-based and maritime economic zones.
Additionally, the planned Chinese naval base on Pakistan’s Jiwani peninsula, even closer to the Iranian border and located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is a critical military node in China’s “String of Pearls” facilities designed to dominate the strategic sea lanes in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.
Such ambitions present a direct economic and military threat to India. Commercially, Gwadar competes with joint Iranian-Indian development of the port of Chabahar, just 150 miles to its west.
According to numerous reports, Saudi Arabia contributes to the instability of the border region by sponsoring virulently anti-Shia Sunni militant groups, such as Jaish al-Adl, who launch attacks on Iran from safe havens in Pakistan.
Iran retaliates by supporting the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), an ethnic separatist group, whose sanctuaries and leader, Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, are claimed to be inside Iranian territory and routinely conduct cross-border operations against Pakistani government targets. Members of the BLF are suspected to be in contact with Iranian intelligence, often through drug lords acting as intermediaries. BLF members are occasionally confused with their anti-Shia counterparts. Some months ago, a BLF team was mistakenly attacked by Iranian border guards. One member, shot in the encounter, was taken to Imam Ali Hospital in Chabahar for treatment, but later died of his wounds. The other team members were subsequently released by Iranian forces.
To continue reading: The Iran-Pakistan border is a geopolitical powder keg