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Gwadar Port and Strategic Regional Interests – Part 1

Ayaz Ahmed

This is Part-1 of three articles series on this topic.

In the changing dynamics of global politics, the sea trade is getting complex with more focus on commercial activities and economic prosperity. In this politics, Gwadar port has its unique strategic and geopolitical importance because the port is the warm water and deep sea port of Pakistan and situated at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz region which holds 2/3rd world oil reserves. Moreover, this third important deep sea port of Pakistan is located at cross junction of international sea shipping and oil trade routes. The port would connect three regions, i.e. Central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. Importantly, the world economies  are in need for energy resources and surprisingly Gwadar port can provide the only feasible and safe route to use the potential natural resources of Central Asia, whose “market access is hindered by political and geographic conditions, including continued Russian influence”, remarked Robert Kaplan, celebrated geo-strategist. As a result, the port has special influence on local, national, regional and global politics.

Gwadar port would connect Central Asia, South Asia and Middle East

Historically speaking, Gwadar was purchased by Pakistan in 1958 from Omani Sultanate at the cost of US $3 million. During its construction phase, from 1988-1992 a small port was constructed. In 2007, General Musharraf inaugurated Gwadar deep sea port. From 2007-2012, Gwadar port remained under Port Singapore Authority (PSA) but due to its poor performance, the port was handed over to China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) in 2013. Since then the construction work has been done at a rapid pace. Along with Gwadar port, the building up of Gwadar city, Gwadar power generation plants and Gwadar International Airport are the proposed projects under construction and development. The port has begun shipment, seasonal cargo and commercial trade but it is still under construction and it has been reported that port would be fully operational till end of this year.

But the cherished emergence of the deep sea port as a vibrant economic hub has caused regional and international consternation and bogey. Arguably, Iran, India and UAE are anxious about the potential port and consider it a fly in the ointment which could well dwarf their international ports by throttling back burgeoning business activities at their ports. Therefore, they are clandestinely and frenetically immersed in obstructing the timely operation of Gwadar port by backstairs influences such as fuelling disruptive sectarianism, ethnic militancy and low level-insurgency in the restive province; so does the United States (US). Other powers such as China, on the other hand, view the port with unfolding and brewing economic opportunities and have hankering to reap rich economic and military dividends once the port is completely operational.

Iran, India and UAE are clandestinely obstructing the timely operation of Gwadar port

Chinese Interests      

China needs Gwadar Port for two explicit objectives i.e. economic and military. The world’s second largest economy, China, wishes to further expand its trade with the oil and gas rich Middle East and mineral rich Africa via Gwadar Port because the port provides the cheapest, easiest and nearest access to these regions. Chinese existing sea route passes through  risky South China Sea, Pacific Rim, the Strait of Malacca and Srilanka and Chinese vessels have to cruise about 10,000 km to reach the trading partners in the region. But Gwadar port will reduce the sea distance to 2,500 km  instead of 10,000 km and land distance for Kashgar to 2,800 because Kashgar is 4,500 Km from main Chinese port, the port of Shanghai, while Gwadar is 2800 km from Kashgar ,thus not only saving time , but also billions of dollars for the country.

Moreover, China has an eye over the obtrusive copper and gold reserves at Recodiq, known as the “Hillock of Gold” situated in Chagai, a tehsil of Balochistan. According to recent estimates, it is the world’s 4th largest reservoirs of gold and copper (there exist 10 billion kilo gram copper and 370 million gram gold, about the US $ 260 billion of worth). To acquire these objectives, China is financing and constructing a $46 billion economic corridor that will connect Gwadar to China’s landlocked and economically underdeveloped Xinjiang province.

 (To Be continued)

Author is a former assistant researcher at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), now independent researcher, columnist and blogger. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ayazahmed66665

Published in The Balochistan Point on August 27, 2015

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

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