Gwadar : The Game Changer

By Saba Karim.

According to S. W Johns Vayzeer, Gwadar, in terms of military configuration, Gwadar can augment the much-publicized Chinese String of Pearl policy. Both Sino-Pak maritime naval power projection capabilities tend to alter the balance of power in the region which could counterbalance Indo-US nexus in the region. Russia may join this realignment in the immediate future for the greater Euro-Asian resurgence.

From commercial perspective Gwadar, says Vayzeer, can claim three distinct advantages over Dubai and the other Gulf ports that have followed a similar template. It lies on the main route, without vessels needing to enter the Straits of Hormuz. It has a large hinterland, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and at some point in future, Central Asia. Third, it offers a direct conduit to western China, which could be many times more valuable in the event of a blockage in the Straits of Malacca, a critical bottleneck.

Gwadar lies on the cusp of the India Ocean, Arabian Sea and other critical water bodies. Let me highlight its significance by presenting some important, salient quotations of leading analysts. The India Ocean Region is a  zone of Strategic Competition.

“Already the world’s preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway, the Indian Ocean will matter even more in the future. One reason is that India and China, major trading partners locked in an uncomfortable embrace, are entering into a dynamic great-power rivalry in these waters.”
Robert D. Kaplan

Again, according to Sulman Ali in his article Pakistan – China Gwadar Port Agreement: Balance Power Game in South Asia:

“Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. The ocean is the key to the seven seas. In the 21st century the destiny of the world will be decided on its waters”.

Located barely 72 km away from each other in the deep-sea Gwadar port in Pakistan and Chabahar in Iran are not mere ports but geopolitical launch pads that can alter the strategic balance in the region. The Gwadar port — close to the Straits of Hormuz —a key maritime route to the oil producing region. Gwadar is located about 700 km from Karachi and about 75 km from Iranian port Chahbahar – allows China to access the Indian Ocean. China can monitor US and Indian naval activity in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea while its proxy Pakistan can control the energy routes from there.

It is connected to Chinese city of Kashgar with land distance of about 2000 km through the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. China is heavily dependent on Gulf oil; about 60% of the oil comes from the Gulf for which the ships have to travel a distance of about 16000 km to her only commercial port, Chinghai, through the Indian and Pacific Oceans which takes about three months.

On the other hand, Chabahar port in Iran, is India’s trump card and gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and beyond. It can allow India to monitor Pakistani & Chinese naval activities in the Indian Ocean Region and Gulf. Chahbahar is the Iran’s Southernmost port city on the Gulf of Oman, which is the best access point to the Indian Ocean. It is part of the Iranian Seestan- Baluchistan Province, bordering Pakistani Baluchistan.

The port has numerous potentials, a few of them are:-

a) Its location is close to the international SLOCs and is suitable for trans-shipment facilities.

b) It is farthest from Pakistan’s eastern neighbour and thus provides more warning time against air and naval threat.

c) It offers natural protection against weather.

d) It is more suitable for capitalizing trade opportunities with energy rich Afghanistan and Caspian Region.

e) To give access for the development potential of heartland (Chaliand, 1994 967) and Rimland (Chaliand, 1994:969).

f) Gwadar Port being a gateway to the Persian Gulf at the Hormuz Strait will offer various harbour services like show casing and storage of sea resources, shipment, transshipment, and manufacturing conveniences for regional, extra regional key players, UAE and European nations.

The proven reserves and production will have following implications on Gwadar Port:-

a) Estimated production of dry cargo is more than liquid cargo, which means larger ships and deep sea port will prove better.

b) Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will produce more dry cargo than other CARs and Gwadar will prove to be the shortest access to warm waters.

c) Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan having more liquid cargo can export it through pipelines and can have an alternate routes to Mediterranean Sea through Caspian Region which is about 1800 kms long route whereas through Gwadar it will be only 1400 kms long.

d) Route to Mediterranean Sea passes through Russia which is a point of concern for Europe, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

e) European nations are striving to reach this mineral rich region through Caspian Region earlier than other key players through Gwadar and Afghanistan.

A few facts which will influence the significance of the Gwadar port for Afghanistan are as follows:-

a) Gwadar provides the shortest possible access for Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and is most cost effective

b) The local Pashtuns have religious, cultural and economic linkages with Pakistan.

c) For a developing and a landlocked country like Afghanistan, which is in need of immediate access to warm waters Gwadar appears to be a most suitable opportunity.

d) The U.S would like that the Afghan trade should be routed through Pakistan and not through Iran.

e) Afghanistan will get all the port related amenities, warehousing services, transit conveniences and import opportunities.

America is and will remain a major player in the new Asian Great Game. The new Great Game will increasingly revolve around China’s One Belt, One Road vision of land and sea connectivity between Asia, Europe and beyond. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the first component of this ambitious project.

Benefits for Pakistan:

Pakistan can fulfill her energy needs which are beyond her indigenous production, additionally she can also accrue number of benefits such as:

1)      Enhance trade with CARs / Middle East.

2)      The relations with neighboring and regional countries can be improved and trade can be enhanced.

3)      Through IPI /TAPI pipelines, relations with India can be normalized and that can also act as CBMs.

4)      Pakistan can earn lot of foreign exchange through transit fee and improve her foreign exchange reserves.

5)      The transit fee can be utilized for development purpose.

6)      There will be a gradual growth and improvement in most of the backward areas and towns / villages.

7)      The living conditions and literacy rate of these areas can also be improved.

8)      Lot of new jobs would come up due to new projects which would lower the overall rate of unemployment.

9)      Tourism and hotel industries can be boosted as no of foreigners would be visiting Pakistan for the construction of these projects.

10)    It would improve the overall economy of the country.

WE pray to Allah Almighty to reform and transform Pakistan in the near future. Pakloveyou.

About Author:

The writer did MBA from AJK University. She is aspirant to CSS and PMS, with keen interest in education, current affairs and policy evaluation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *