Another Hydrocarbon Heist in the Making?
We can wax philosophically, on and on and on, about the instability "big oil" has engendered throughout the world: Hugo Chavez's regime in Venezuela, corruption in Nigeria, sabre-rattling in Russia, and oh yeah . . . the Middle East.
However, there's one region that could become a huge geopolitical tinderbox in a few years: Baluchistan. What? Where?
Baluchistan. It straddles Iran, Afghanistan, and most Pakistan's southwestern coast. It sounds like a fascinating place: rugged terrain, independent and hearty people, and a sea full of shimmering silver fish of all sizes that sinewy men wearing grimy, tattered turbans catch and toss into donkey carts on the beach. In reading about Baluchistan, I fantasized about a future solar hub, reinvigorating Pakistan's coastal economy and providing jobs for its people, and bolstered by its proximity to Dubai's wealth (what's left of it) and technology.
Scratch that thought before we even think of it. Remember we're talking about Pakistan. The Pakistani government believes Baluchistan can solve their nation's economic ills. With an underhandedness that cannot be understated, it sold out a fishing village, Gwadar, in the center of the coast. Foreign investors enjoyed free reign here, transforming the town from a dusty fishing village to what will eventually be a world class deep water shipping port. Gwadar will eventually make the abundant fossil fuels in Central Asia readily available to the global market: remember, the Russians (Soviets, actually) had this region in mind when they invaded Afghanistan 30 years ago.
One hiccup in the Pakistanis' plans: the native Baluchs. Baluchistan was once part of the sultanate of Oman, but their homeland was turned to Pakistani rule in 1958, and therein lie many festering problems--the Pakistanis' mistrust of the Baluchs, and the latter rightfully despise their rulers, who through corrupt deals and alliances, sold out these proud people.
The future looks bleak: bombings and kidnappings have felled outsiders working in Baluchistan, making the Pakistani government even more determined to keep a tighter grip on the region.
I admit I was ignorant of this region until recently; I guarantee none of us will be in a few years.