Karachi, Mar.23: Gwadar, located on the southwestern coast of Pakistan, was just a small fishing hamlet at one time, but now is set to become not only a hub of shipping and commercial and industrial activities, but also a key geo-strategic location.
Located close to the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf through which over 13 million barrels of oil pass every day, this coastal town located at the intersection of oil-rich Middle East, South Asia where one-fifth of the world’s population lives and Central Asian Republics (CARs) having vast reserves of oil and minerals, is also likely to emerge as the country’s most strategically-located deep-sea port.
Gwadar port, the third deep-sea port of Pakistan, may not seem to be of use to Pakistan as there is no need of a feeder port in Balochistan, yet it will have global ramifications.
Countries like Russia and China will find this port of great importance to their futuristic needs as both have so far been unsuccessful in establishing ports in hot waters.
China’s decision to finance the construction of the Gwadar port and the coastal highway linking the port to Karachi will help its plans to develop western China. The distance from Kashgar to the Chinese east coast ports is 3,500 km, whereas the distance from Kashgar to Gwadar is only 1,500 km. The cost benefits to China of using Gwadar as the port for western China’s imports and exports are evident.
China has no blue water navy and feels defenceless in the Persian Gulf against any hostile action to choke off its energy supplies. To cope with the new challenges, the Chinese leadership envisaged a new plan that was called by the US as “assembling a string of pearls”.
Besides Gwadar, this string includes Chittagong of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal and Myanmar in the Indian Ocean. China has helped build the Chittagong port in Bangladesh where it is seeking an extensive naval and commercial access. In the case of Myanwar, Beijing has showered billions of dollars in military aid.
It has provided support for building several ports, road and rail links from the Chinese province of Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal, and a monitoring post on Myanmar’s Coco Islands for sea traffic.
The new Chinese plans have rung alarm bells in India and the US too. India feels that it is encircled by China from three sides – Myanmar, Tibet and Pakistan. To counter Sino-Pak collaboration, India has brought Afghanistan and Iran into an economic and strategic alliance.
Following the Chinese ambitions in the region, India has pursued closer military ties with the US and issued a new naval doctrine stressing the need of protecting energy routes and responding to Beijing’s inroads into the Arabian Sea.
To counter the Gwadar port that is also called the Chinese Gibraltar by Washington, India has built Chabahar port in Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran – just adjacent to Gwadar. India is also helping Iran in building a 200km road that will connect Chabahar with Afghanistan. It will provide access via land to the port for their imports and exports to and from Central Asia. Presently, India is in urgent need of a shorter transit route to quickly ship its trade goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Despite the fact that the Gwadar port is meeting Chinese purposes, the US has not objected to building the sea port. President Bush sees Gwadar as an advantage rather than a threat. He is confident that Pakistan will not allow the Chinese Navy to block US trade goods on the route and inside sources believe Musharraf has made some promises in that regard.
Source: Daily News