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Strategic Importance of Gwadar Port

Tariq Kakar

According to the geography of human mind, ideology and intellectuality of anthropoid nature always changes due to the strategy of time and power in international political culture.

The government of Pakistan has realized the necessity of a seaport at Gwadar, a city situated at the Southwest coast of Balochistan, and measures have been taken for the construction of this port and allied projects. Gwadar is located at the face of the Iranian Plateau and is a doorway to the oil rich Persian Gulf. Gwadar also gives easy access to the natural resources of Central Asian States. Pakistan is situated at a geostrategic location from where the country can potentially be the regional hub of trading and economic activities. Gwadar Port Project is the first step for Pakistan to achieve such an important status in the international community. The international players will all be interested in the trade flowing through Gwadar.

The features which give Gwadar such an advantage are all natural; Gwadar has a deep and warm water coast, it is situated at a junction of different regions and it is part of the resourceful Balochistan. The most beneficial feature which gives Gwadar port the utmost political and economic importance is that Gwadar is a linking region. Gwadar Port is a link between the East and the West. Gwadar can change the strategic environment and economy of the entire political community. Pakistan government began Gwadar port project but has not given attention to it in these past few years. Gwadar is no longer the top priority in the agenda of the country. The construction and developmental activities in Gwadar have ceased. The first phase of Gwadar port is complete, but the second phase and many other parallel projects are incomplete. Construction for plans such as the railway link, industrial and economic zone, international airport and other structures is not in final phase. The main reason of Gwadar not being a top priority anymore is that the economic policies of Pakistan are not oriented geopolitically and hence do not allow Gwadar to be realized as a significant site. The relations of Pakistan with the neighboring countries are also unfavorable for Gwadar because of the security issues in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, and the unwillingness of these countries to contribute funds.

Pakistan’s economy is growing and Gwadar Port Project can further speed up the growth but Gwadar can only give output of profits if there is an input of investments. The port project is at its early stages and further developments have been stopped. The construction at the port needs to be back on track and the parallel projects should be initiated. Only after the completion of Gwadar port can the vision of Gwadar functioning as the trading hub of the region be achieved.  The economic, domestic and foreign policies should be shaped in favor of Gwadar port. Pakistan should also work on the law and order situation in the country and Balochistan especially in the Gwadar region for the Port to be a secure location. Relations with the neighboring countries should be favorable for the port and only in such conditions can Gwadar develop and flourish and enhance Pakistan’s economy and strategic importance in the region along with the rest of international political system.

China is assisting Pakistan in development of this port. China is also helping in the construction of many other associated projects including railroad links and industrial complexes. The concerns of the United States of America and India are growing with regards to this Chinese involvement in Pakistan’s interests. They are considering this involvement as a potential threat.

The United States has created troubled relations with some countries in the Middle East as a result of attempting to install a version of democracy in the Muslim world. These relations have been further deteriorated due to the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The United States is keeping its military forces in the region in order to protect its own national interests. A military base may be established close to the Persian Gulf if it seems to be necessary to preserve those interests. Thus, it may be taken into consideration that the United States may desire to install that base in Gwadar port. Such a scenario would put Pakistan-China relations in jeopardy as well as the relations of Pakistan with the Middle Eastern countries.

India views China as a threat and is surrounded by Chinese influence from three sides; Tibet, Myanmar and Pakistan. Iran also views China as a threat since Gwadar may be depriving Iran of its economic profits by taking away trade from Iranian ports. In attempts to counter this scene, Iran has developed its own port; Chabahar. Chabahar has been constructed with the help of India and a plan has been made to construct a 200km road connecting Chabahar and Afghanistan. This will provide fluent trade to and from Central Asia. This way India and Iran will manage to suppress the threats posed by Gwadar.

Citizens of Pakistan are also seemingly opposing the Gwadar Port Project. The people of Balochistan seem to see an advanced Gwadar as a threat to their cultural lifestyle. The tribal leaders even have actively shown disinterest in the project. They see it as a threat to their hold on the people.

With so many obstacles and hindrances in the way, such as the War on Terrorism, Indo-Pak rivalry and Pakistan’s political situation, Pakistan should be very careful about the steps taken towards this project and many other advancement projects. The initial stage of the construction of Gwadar port is complete but many stages are yet to be completed. The success of the project depends on the policies adopted by the Pakistan government. Foreign policies, security concerns, economic planning etc. should be ensued strategically and carefully otherwise they may create many complications for Gwadar port. This thesis will identify all the necessary steps required to bring the Gwadar Port Project into action. The Gwadar Port will bring about economic and political gains in the regional and international politics.

Author is a  visiting lecturer in International Islamic University, Islamabad.

Published in The Balochistan Point on September 21, 2014.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and The Balochistan Point not necessarily agrees with them.

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