The IOR Power Play: Finding a Balance for Pakistan

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is currently experiencing a significant transformation, which is the result of the complex interplay of international relations, particularly economic and strategic interests. Being a crucial participant in the changing geopolitical landscape of the region, the IOR holds a significant position in the global political arena due to its proximity to rapidly developing regions and its function as a major hub for energy and trade. Additionally, the proliferation of sea-based strategic deterrents and the substantial growth of military and strategic arsenals have contributed to the complexity of the situation, leading to a new arms race and generating uncertainty regarding the motives and capabilities of regional actors.

One of the significant factors contributing to the evolving dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region is India’s ambitious pursuit of a blue-water navy. To reinforce its maritime presence in the region, India is implementing various strategies, such as expanding its naval capacities, forming strategic alliances with the US and the Quad countries, conducting broadened naval drills such as the MALABAR exercise, and undertaking Project Seabird, its largest naval modernization effort.

Project Seabird aims to modernize and expand India’s naval infrastructure through the construction of a state-of-the-art naval base in Karwar, equipped with advanced features such as deep-draft harbor and training/simulation facilities. This effort reinforces India’s maritime security and demonstrates its naval strength in the Indian Ocean Region.

However, the growth of India’s naval power and its increased presence in the IOR are perceived as a direct challenge to other regional actors, including Pakistan. It has the potential to disrupt the existing security dynamics and undermine regional stability. Additionally, India’s investment in the Chahbahar port has raised security concerns for Pakistan, as it provides India with access to Afghanistan and central Asia, potentially compromising Pakistan’s strategic position. The close proximity of Chahbahar port to Gwadar port, a crucial component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), further exacerbates concerns that India may undermine its development and thereby, Pakistan’s strategic standing in the region.

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Another crucial factor contributing to the changing geostrategic landscape in the Indian Ocean Region is China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This initiative, which aims to connect China with Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, is widely regarded as a significant contributor to the shifting balance of power in the region. The implementation of the BRI involves the development of infrastructure and investment in ports, railways, and pipelines, which are perceived by some as instruments for China’s influence and control over regional economies.

As a major Indian Ocean littoral country, Pakistan is committed to pursuing economic growth and development in the region. The country aims to realize the economic potential of the region through various initiatives, including its involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan has a vested interest in the BRI, as it is a key participant in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a significant component of the BRI.

Pakistan is grappling with the ramifications of the Indo-US defense collaboration on the security dynamics in the region. The transfer of cutting-edge military technologies and weapons systems from the West to India has the potential to upset the delicate strategic balance that exists in the region, and may lead to adverse consequences for regional security. This has caused great concern for Pakistan, which is now faced with the challenge of preserving its strategic stability and ensuring the credibility of its nuclear deterrent.

In order to maintain this stability, Pakistan may be compelled to take necessary steps such as engaging in a new arms race in the naval domain. This could involve the acquisition of advanced weapons systems and technologies to counter the enhanced military capabilities of India. However, such an arms race would place a significant strain on Pakistan’s limited resources, which are already earmarked for modernization of its naval forces.

It is important to note that the Indo-US defense partnership has far-reaching implications for the entire region, and not just for Pakistan. The transfer of advanced military technologies to India has the potential to disrupt the delicate strategic balance in the region, and could lead to an increase in tensions and a heightened risk of conflict.

Nonetheless, Pakistan is taking diplomatic measures to counteract India’s growing military influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The country has expressed its concerns at the United Nations General Assembly and engages in regional security dialogues, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the D8 Organization for Economic Cooperation. These actions demonstrate Pakistan’s concerns regarding India’s military expansion in the IOR and its commitment to regional peace and stability.

In an effort to safeguard its national interests, Pakistan is striving to maintain positive relationships with both China and the United States. However, the emergence of great power competition has the potential to exacerbate polarizations in the broader Asian region, creating a complex challenge for Pakistan. The country must navigate these shifting dynamics in order to maintain its strategic position in the region and protect its national interests.

As the security landscape in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) evolves and new threats emerge, it becomes imperative for Pakistan to develop a robust security strategy. To secure its sovereignty and maintain stability in the constantly changing global arena, the country must assess the challenges it faces and devise a strategic response. The development of a comprehensive security strategy requires a cohesive national effort that incorporates all elements of national power and considers both regional and global dynamics. It is essential for Pakistan to undertake a thorough examination of its security posture and identify areas for improvement in order to effectively protect its national interests and ensure stability in the region. An integrated approach, taking into account both internal and external factors, is crucial for achieving success in the ever-changing security landscape of the IOR.

As the security landscape in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) continues to evolve, Pakistan has the opportunity to assert its role as a central figure in promoting regional stability. By capitalizing on its inherent strengths and forming strategic partnerships, Pakistan can make a substantial contribution to regional security and fortify its position in the geopolitical arena. Through a comprehensive and proactive approach to regional security, Pakistan can effectively address emerging threats and establish itself as a reliable player in the IOR. By doing so, Pakistan will be well-positioned to secure its sovereignty and maintain stability in an increasingly complex and rapidly shifting global landscape.

Shafiq Khattak
Shafiq Khattak
Shafiq Khattak, is an emerging voice in Maritime and Geopolitical discussions. With a strong background in maritime, regional politics, strategic studies and power politics, he offers insightful analysis and thought-provoking commentary on current events and emerging trends. Connect with Khattak at skhattak792[at]