Friday, 24 September 2021

Celebrating Gwadar

As the first large shipment of Chinese goods arrived through the renovated port of Gwadar on Sunday, the government seems to have let out a collective sigh of relief. Trade through the corridor has finally begun, and in general, the Pakistani people seem to be behind the project. The ISPR videos played during the event described CPEC as the fruit of “General Raheel Sharif’s vision”, whereas PM Nawaz Sharif described it as a vision common to China’s worldview and the government’s own agenda “to make Pakistan a hub” of regional connectivity. The Prime Minister’s office and ISPR have both been eager to claim Gwadar as the vision of their respective bosses – perhaps both of them are forgetting that it was actually the Musharraf government that initially launched the development of Gwadar port from 2002 to 2007. Arguably, this momentous step is the fruit of the labour of all parties involved, particularly China, which has much to lose if this project was to fail.

There is much reason for China to celebrate. With the development of Pakistan’s second largest port Gwadar, this trade corridor will stretch from the Western Xinxiang province of China to the port of Gwadar, thus providing access to the Chinese to the Arabian Sea barely 600 kilometres east of the narrow Strait of Hormuz through which passes about 35 percent of the world’s oil shipments. China will not only bypass the Malacca Strait through which 80 percent of its oil supply presently flows, but reduce the distance as noted above by 2000 miles. China would not have to depend on the US to keep the choke point of Strait of Malacca open because it will reach the Arabian Sea through the all-important port of Gwadar, hence cementing its place as the next economic super power of the world.

In the early nineties, the Iranian port of Chahbahar was built by India to bypass Pakistan to reach its interests in Afghanistan. Despite international pressure against it, India conducts a trade worth 15 billion dollars and imports about 15 percent of its oil needs from Iran. India is also building a railway from Chahbahar to connect to the Iranian Railway System to reach the Central Asian markets and tap the mineral rich Central Afghanistan. India is doing what it must for its own national interest, and it is imperative that Pakistan not be left behind. No matter what the detractors say, Chinese investments in Pakistan have been a boon for us, especially when we have felt forsaken by old friends like the US.

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