The Gwadar-Karakoram-Xinjiang Corridor

The Crowning piece of  China’s Strategic Mosaic to its Africa and Middle East Undertaking


Vice Admiral (retd) Vijay Shankar

Keywords: Gwadar-Karakoram-Xinjiang Corridor, Chinese commercial and military engagement of Africa and West Asia

Download full article here: Shankar, The Karakoram Corridor


A Historical Fable Morphs into Actuality

The North and Northwest Passages were fabled sea routes conjured by adventurers, merchants and money chandlers over the last six centuries to link the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean. The Route lay through the Arctic archipelago of what became Canada and the treacherous ice flows that frustrate passage across the Arctic Ocean. To discover, establish and control a commercial all weather sea line of communication that would have world wide economic significance was the quest of early explorers. Some of these voyages ended in disaster while others in failure in the search for a viable deep sea channel amidst drifting icebergs and trapping ice flows.   Not till 1906 when Amundsen made the transit over an arduous three year voyage was the feat achieved; and a feat it remained till Nature through global warming made the passage a distinct commercial and strategic verity. Today the route is a reality and in 2011 alone more than 18 commercial ships had made the now ice free crossing. To put matters in perspective, as a trade corridor the distance from China to markets in Europe has been cut down to less than 8000 miles from 14,700 miles. Significantly the route avoids two sensitive ‘choke points’ the Malacca Strait and the Suez Canal.

While a combination of strategic security considerations, geopolitical circumstances, commercial power rivalry, imperatives of economy in a globalised world and Nature made actuality of a fable; a very similar array of forces have set in motion another global quest. Only on this historical occasion it is China that  leads the charge to secure a strategic corridor serviced by a maritime terminal that would quench not just its thirst for energy but also provide a secure alternative conduit for the ‘fruits’ of its Africa and Middle East ventures to feed its resource guzzling growth programme.


Given the stakes that China has in her own development and her justified security concerns, there are adequate signals to suggest that India needs to pull out of the state of paranoia that she transits through every time that China collaborates with Pakistan, particularly so in the case of the Gwadar-Karakoram-Xinjiang energy cum raw materials corridor. It is true that there are very serious unresolved territorial disputes that plague Sino-Indian relations and the proposed corridor runs through some of this territory; but what is of greater significance is the burgeoning trade between the two which is expected to reach $100 billion by 2015. In this deepening of commercial relations lies the germ of friction resolution.

Download full article here: Shankar, The Karakoram Corridor

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