China is increasingly seeking to find ways to find connectivity with Europe and the Middle East by bypassing Russia and to do so it is escalating tensions in the South Caucasus region , especially in Azerbaijan with the backing of Pakistan, media reports said.
There are multiple ways through which China is trying to achieve its connectivity objectives. First is promoting its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to woo countries which can provide it easy access to Europe, reported Portal Plus.
China has been expanding its BRI projects for last many years. Beijing is being seen building transport routes to Europe that bypass Russia for the last decade.
It is worth noting that the South Caucasus region, acts as a link between the Middle East, China, Russia and Europe and therefore the region has great strategic significance.
Secondly, it is China’s show of strength to build-up connectivity in the South Caucasus region. China’s ploy to expand its reach in Azerbaijan seemed highly probable as it comes in the backdrop of Azerbaijan’s government probe of a secret military flight which originated from Macao (China) to reach Yerevan in Armenia, reported Portal Plus.
Another contentious issue that is troubling Azerbaijan is Pakistan’s alleged facilitation of the flight. According to Portal Plus, the military aircraft presumably carrying weapons for Armenia landed at Karachi Airport en route to Yerevan.
Because of these suspicions, Azerbaijan has apparently sought clarification from Islamabad on the issue through its envoy in Pakistan.
Now in terms of connectivity projects, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have supported China’s initiatives. Hence, among the Chinese promoted overland routes is the one that crosses the Caspian Sea from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan and onward to Georgia, Turkey and ultimately Europe.
While Azerbaijan is actively taking part in Chinese infrastructure connectivity projects, Armenia has also exhibited openness to China, as evident by the Memorandum it signed in 2015 on Promotion of Cooperation in Building the Silk Road Economic Belt, the media portal reported.
China’s actions in the region are dubious. In the past, Yerevan have seen multiple flareups with neighbouring Azerbaijan that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.
Many countries have made comments on the long-standing conflict and have called out for early resolution. Taking the same line, Beijing has also called upon both countries to resolve their disputes through dialogue.
However, Beijing’s intentions are more than just desiring the dispute settlement. Beijing apparently is looking out to cater for its own interests of connectivity itself suitably with Europe and the Middle East.
Russia assisted ceasefire to stop fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 including a provision allowing Azerbaijan to use a road through Armenian territory to access its Nakhchivan exclave.
The corridor between Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan would offer Beijing a second route to Europe in the South Caucasus after the one via Georgia, reported Portal Plus.
Pakistan is China’s all-whether friend, and Azerbaijan authorities suspect that the route was mainly chosen because of other routes being under their surveillance. It came out as a shock to Azerbaijan when the Chinese side allegedly colluded with Pakistan to carry out these suspicious activities in the region.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, the country has vowed that it will look into the matter and revert to Azerbaijan with the details. However, due to the iron-clad friendship between China-Pakistan, it is highly unlikely that the reply will carry any substantial weight to it.