Gwadar is intended to be a national gateway port for Pakistan and the region and a world-class maritime hub. But unfortunately this dream could not be realized due to various factors including Government of Pakistan’s own failure to complete supporting infrastructure projects. Now China has undertaken to develop the related road and rail network besides establishing industrial estates that would give enormous boost to economic activity in and around Gwadar and also for the country. While appreciating the policy-makers for making a right decision, we would also urge them to show the same wisdom in reforming other institutions and sectors like Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan Railways and Thar Coal development.
India has made its reaction explicit over Pakistan’s decision to hand
over administrative control of the strategically located Gawadar Port
from Singapore to a Chinese company. The statement of A.K Antony,
India’s Minister of Defense and strategic experts expressing their
‘’concern’’ reflected the fact that they are not happy over this
important decision of Pakistan.
The Indians fear that through administrative control of this port, China
might get access to the strategically important Persian Gulf and the
Arabian Sea and even extend its military clout to these waters by using
this port as a naval base.
Although Pakistan and China have made it clear that this port is
commercial and would not be used for military purposes, Indian
apprehensions have not been allayed. Each and every nation is within its
sovereign rights to develop its ports and give their management and
control to any country it finds suitable.
Indo-US Strategic Partnership is a threat to the security and strategic
interests of some states in the region but India did not care even an
iota for their concerns and apprehensions in this respect. Pakistan is
not bound to consider concerns of India or any other state for that
It made this decision in its own larger interests and handed over the
control of the Gawadar Port to a state with whom it has all-weather and
long-standing strategic partnership.
Gawader Port is a living example of Pak-China cooperation in an area
which is beneficial for both the states. China has provided funds and
technical assistance for this purpose. The need for construction of this
port was felt due to rising commercial activities on and insufficiency
of the Karachi port which could not fulfill the requirements of a
maritime state which depends for most of its trade on sea routes.
Its commercial value for China lies in the fact that it can be
conveniently used for transportation of oil and gas from the Middle East
and Central Asia to western China through Karakoram Highway. In the
absence of the Pakistani port facilities, it is required to use the long
and circuitous sea routes of the Indian Ocean and enter the South China
Sea after passage through the Straits of Malacca. This route, besides
being long and expensive, is hazardous and unreliable because it passes
through those parts of the Indian Ocean where Indian and US influence is
dominant and might create problems for China’s trade and commerce,
especially imports of vital energy sources such as oil and gas upon
which its rising economy is so dependent.
This is an area where they can hit Chinese interests more easily during times of tension and clash.
The Gawader Port provides an alternative route to China which might
ensure uninterrupted supply of hydro-carbons to its mainland without
being blocked by India or the US.
This is one of the hidden objectives of the Indo-US Strategic
Partnership to create a bloc against the rising power of China and
enhance their joint potential to protect the vital sea lanes for their
commercial and military activities and make these hazardous for China.
China does not and cannot challenge the Indian and US supremacy in the
Indian Ocean where these countries have already entrenched their
respective positions to the exclusion and disadvantage of China and
other powers. If the US or India ever made any attempt to block Chinese
commerce or trade in the Indian Ocean, the latter has the option of
using the Pakistani route via Gawadar Port. India’s concern of China
using this port for extending its military muscles into the
strategically important Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea are baseless.
Both Pakistan and China have made it clear that this port is meant only
for commercial purposes and under no circumstances will it be used for
Pakistan cannot allow China or any other nation to use the Gawadar Port
or any other territory or asset under its sovereign control as a
military base against another country because it would jeopardize
Pakistan’s own security at the hands of the power or powers whose
security or interests are threatened so. But neither can it be deterred
by the pressure tactics of India or the US from giving the management
and control of this port to China and allowing it to use it for
commercial activities. China is our all-weather friend whose assistance
in the economic and military development of Pakistan is hidden from
none. The construction and development of the Gawadar Port is a symbol
of Pak-China joint cooperation which is beneficial for both the
countries but which is directed against none. This port may also serve
as the shortest possible route for the Central Asian states for their
imports and exports through the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Giving management and control of the Gawadar Port to the US or any other
power closely allied to it would have jeopardized Pakistan’s own
security as well as security of China. It would have put Pakistan to a
great disadvantage. Already its presence in Afghanistan and connivance
at the Indian subversive activities against Pakistan from the
Afghanistan is a matter of concern for us.
Pakistan could not give control of such an important strategic asset to
an unreliable country that has entered into strategic partnership with
its main adversary and itself denied the same privilege despite the fact
that it is its old friend, the greatest non-NATO ally and the
front-line state in the War against Terror.
Iftikhar Ahmad Yaqubi
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