Gwadar: A fu­ture eco­nomic hub

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Dr Muham­mad Khan Email: drmk_edu@ya­hoo.com

OW­ING to its strate­gic loca tion and God gifted nat­u­ral re­sources, the Balochis­tan Province of Pak­istan has al­ways been at the cen­tre stage of re­gional and global pol­i­tics. The fa­mous writer and ge­og­ra­pher, Robert D. Ka­plan de­scribes the province of Balochis­tan as, “One key to its fate is the fu­ture of Gwadar, a strate­gic port whose de­vel­op­ment will ei­ther un­lock the riches of Cen­tral Asia, or plunge Pak­istan into a sav­age, and po­ten­tially ter­mi­nal civil war.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Pak­istan could not un­lock the riches of the Cen­tral Asia and Caspian yet. How­ever, it has ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the wide spread in­sta­bil­ity and law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in the province of Balochis­tan, ever since the devel­op­men­tal work on the Gwadar port started in 2002. How­ever, now, there is an im­prove­ment in the law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in Balochis­tan and with the Chi­nese tak­ing over the Gwadar port in 2013, the full op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of the Port in near fu­ture, it is ex­pected that, eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties will fur­ther en­hance.

Since the Port is strate­gi­cally lo­cated near the ship­ping lanes (route), con­nect­ing three main con­ti­nents; Asia, Africa, and Europe, there­fore, it has at­tained the sta­tus of a key strate­gic and com­mer­cial port. In­deed, over 60% of global trade and trans­porta­tion of oil tankers takes place through the neigh­bour­ing wa­ters of Straits of Hor­muz, the Gwadar port presents it­self as the best al­ter­na­tive and the stor­age port, as it can han­dle the ma­jor ships and oil tankers. “The 14.5-me­ter draft of the port will be able to ac­com­mo­date up to “fifth­gen­er­a­tion” ships, in­clud­ing Pana­max and mother ves­sels.” Fur­ther­more, the Gwadar deep-sea port has the po­ten­tial to re­main op­er­a­tive through­out the year and can han­dle large ships of car­ry­ing oil. Be­ing a junc­tion between en­ergy ef­fi­cient and en­ergy de­fi­cient coun­tries, it can fa­cil­i­tate both China and In­dia, the grow­ing economies of Asia in con­nect­ing them with en­ergy rich Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia. The China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC), con­nect­ing the Gawadar with Kash­gar has fur­ther en­hanced the strate­gic and eco­nomic sig­nif­i­cance of the Gwadar Port.

CPEC is a pro­ject with im­mense eco­nomic and geo-po­lit­i­cal po­ten­tial. The plan has been re­ferred to as a water­shed mo­ment, not only for Pak­istan, but also for en­tire re­gion, as it will change the geo-strate­gic and geo-eco­nomic land­scape of the re­gion. How­ever, it is also feared that clash­ing geo-eco­nomic in­ter­ests may lead to un­de­sir­able com­pe­ti­tions at re­gional and global level. In view of per­ceived Sino-US com­pe­ti­tion and lat­ter’s ef­forts to en­tan­gle the for­mer, the CPEC pro­ject at­tains fur­ther geopo­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance for the stake­hold­ers. Be­sides, there is a com­mon­al­ity of in­ter­est between United States and In­dia, par­tic­u­larly against the ris­ing global sta­tus of China. Th­ese con­verg­ing in­ter­ests of a US and In­dia is cre­at­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges for Pak­istan and China. For en­sur­ing its se­cu­rity, Pak­istan, there is a need for a com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity ap­proach, em­ploy­ing all el­e­ments of na­tional power (EONP) to en­sure its timely com­ple­tion.

In­deed, CPEC is an im­por­tant re­gional com­po­nent of “One Belt One Road” ini­tia­tive by China. Though Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping un­veiled the con­cept of ‘One Belt one Road’ dur­ing his speech in Kaza­khstan (Nazarbayev Uni­ver­sity) on Septem­ber 7, 2013, how­ever, the idea has rooted over the decades, em­a­nat­ing from the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of China and its de­sire for a strate­gic out­reach to Europe and Africa in ad­di­tion to Asia. It is re­vival of his­tor­i­cal Silk Route, keep­ing in view the re­quire­ments of mod­ern means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­fras­truc­tural de­mands. The man­i­fes­ta­tion of One Belt one Road would be; “set­ting up of a geopo­lit­i­cal and geo-eco­nomic Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt (SREB) and the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road (MSR) con­nect­ing China to Europe by land and sea.” Enor­mity of Chi­nese eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and growth of high­ways and rail­road net­work pro­pelled her to ex­tend this to have a link­age of hin­ter­land with Europe, Africa and later with US apart from Asian re­gions, start­ing from re­gional in­te­gra­tion of Euro-Asia.

The ar­rest of In­dian spy­ing agent, Kul­bashan Yada­hav has fur­ther con­firmed that, how In­dia, along with some re­gional coun­tries and ma­jor pow­ers are in­volved in the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of Pak­istan and op­pose the CPEC. In­ter­na­tional ac­tors, op­pos­ing the Port and CPEC have di­rectly or in­di­rectly con­trib­uted to­wards the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the province of Balochis­tan. Lo­cal Baloch pop­u­la­tion was pro­voked in the name of Baloch sub-na­tion­al­ism that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is com­pro­mis­ing their rights over their own land. Upon heavy fund­ing by ri­vals of the port and par­tic­u­larly In­dia, some mis­lead el­e­ments of the Province even acted as de­sired by the pow­ers be­hind them.

For­tu­nately, over the past few years, there has been a lot of change in the per­cep­tion of the lo­cal Baloch pop­u­la­tion. Grad­u­ally they are com- ing out of the in­flu­ence of In­dia and other spy­ing net­works of the re­gional and other ma­jor ma­jor pow­ers. The Baloch youth in par­tic­u­lar have a re­al­i­sa­tion that it was a plot to harm their in­ter­ests and sab­o­tage the Gwadar port. In­deed, ac­cord­ing to ‘Re­source Curse The­ory’ ab­stracted from the fa­mous book, of Richard Auty, ‘Sus­tain­ing De­vel­op­ment in Min­eral Economies’ “No doubt, nat­u­ral re­sources are de­sir­able, yet, can dis­tort the econ­omy to such a de­gree that the ben­e­fit ac­tu­ally be­comes a curse.” This ex­actly has hap­pen­ing in Balochis­tan province of Pak­istan. Those eye­ing on the re­sources or are ap­pre­hen­sive of Pak­istani gains have been con­spir­ing against the state of Pak­istan at re­gional and global level.

The Gwadar Port aimed to be­come, a re­gional and global mar­itime hub. Do­mes­ti­cally, the fun­da­men­tal fac­tor be­hind the de­vel­op­ment of the port was to stim­u­late the eco­nomic growth in the north­ern and west­ern parts of Pak­istan. Re­gion­ally, the port pro­vides the short­est pos­si­ble ap­proach to Ara­bian Sea to China, the land­locked Cen­tral Asian Re­publics and Afghanistan for their tran­ship­ment fa­cil­i­ties. How­ever, glob­ally, it is the best al­ter­na­tive and a stor­age port, ow­ing to its po­ten­tial to han­dle the ma­jor ships and oil tankers. The Port will play a ma­jor role in the re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity. It is there­fore de­sired that, rather be­com­ing ri­vals, In­dia, and other im­me­di­ate neigh­bours of Pak­istan should play a pos­i­tive role in the com­ple­tion of CPEC and op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of the Gwadar Port. It in­deed is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for all. — The writer is In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions an­a­lyst based in Islamabad.

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