The city of Gwadar that we proudly own today did not belong to us. Our government bought it from the Sultanate of Oman in 1958. Only if Oman had known the fate of this land earlier, it probably would have never sold it to Pakistan. Now, Pakistan gladly reaps the reward while Oman silently observes.
It wouldn’t be unfair to credit Worth Condrick, the man who carried out a survey of the area and realised the worth of the land of Gwadar when Oman had known little about its value and was ready to get rid of it since Oman and Gwadar were geographically detached. Neither was it profitable to them. Additionally, the inhabitants of Gwadar were willing to join Pakistan.
A somewhat riveting fact is that Pakistan wasn’t the only country to which this land was offered. It was originally offered to India. It was India’s hard luck that it refused and Pakistan’s fortune that Gwadar was geographically contiguous to it. Today, the consequences are much harsher for India. Their angst is quite clear from the recent terrorist activities being carried out in Balochistan in order to undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It was a few months ago that an Indian submarine was found lurking in the waters around the port. RAW networks are also active in Karachi and along the western border. The deep sea port of Gwadar can prove to be a major security threat for India that may scale down its influence in the Indian Ocean.
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a geo-political strategist. Today, Chinese maritime strategy is based upon Mahan’s theory of sea dominance. He foresaw the superiority of the Indian Ocean. He was of the view that the one who controls the Indian Ocean could become dominant in the whole of Asia. According to him, securing the sea lines of communication can prove beneficial for countries in order to impose a blockade against others.
India is fearful that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA) and the Pakistan Navy (PN) together could diminish its dominance in the Indian Ocean. The PLA Navy would become permanent in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. In case of a war, both the allies can easily impose a naval blockade against India and thereby hinder its trade. Competing against allies wouldn’t be plain sailing for India. They would keep an eye on India’s activities in the Indian Ocean particularly the Arabian Sea. China would also be able to secure its sea lines of communication. The capability of the PLA Navy as well as the PN would grow. China sees this as an opportunity to turn the port into its naval base.
China would have never invested this laboriously in Pakistan if Gwadar wasn’t bought. Giving and receiving is a fundamental law. According to this, you need to give something in order to receive something. China’s string of pearls strategy, initially coined by US analysts, includes setting up a number of military and naval areas of influence across a widespread region. Each of the area would be a pearl and one of those pearls is the deep sea port of Gwadar. China wants to diversify the trade routes and find an alternative to the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. The Strait of Malacca is under the watchful eyes of the US and Indian naval forces. In case of any major conflict, this strait could be halted and this would affect the Chinese economy. Additionally, the strait is also surrounded by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands owned by India. Hence, the trade route through Gwadar port is fairly economical for China.
Balochistan, a resource rich region, hasn’t been able to contribute enough to the economy of Pakistan since the beginning of the creation of the country. Now, Gwadar is going to materialise our dream of sustainable prosperity for Pakistan by turning from a fishing village into a port city. Gwadar is expected to generate massive revenue. Along with this, different industrial estates could be established in the adjacent areas. Not only people from other provinces but foreigners would also be tempted to invest here if the security situation is duly maintained. Gwadar is expected to generate almost two million jobs for the people of Balochistan. The trade capacity of Gwadar port is more than that of Port Qasim and Karachi port combined.
In order to reap maximum benefits, skilled labour is a major need otherwise the job opportunities could easily be exploited by the Chinese and all the money Beijing is investing will benefit them with interest. After all, the port has been leased to a Chinese company for a period of 40 years. Along with this, the dependence on the Chinese expertise for maintenance should be reduced. Pakistan should increase its economic activities and exports. Hambantota port is the finest example where Sri Lanka was trapped in a debt and the port had to be leased to China for a period of 99 years. All the essential steps should be taken before it’s too late.
Furthermore, maritime crimes should be controlled. Crimes like illegal entry and carrying of weapons, smuggling, drug and human trafficking are frequent, and therefore need special attention. Another noteworthy issue is that of marine pollution. In order to tackle these issues, there should be strict rules and regulations for all the moving ships and efficient monitoring with the use of a system to track shipments.
Internal instability combined with external factors is another stumbling block to the success of CPEC. The Baloch people have been living with a sense of deprivation for years now. Another rather disturbing fact is RAW’s involvement with the ‘Baloch liberation movement’ and Baloch student federations. The sense of deprivation of the Baloch could be reduced by giving them due rights and bring their province at a par with others.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri and an Iranian delegation led by the governor of the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, Aaqa Ali Hosth Hashmi, decided to set up a railway track between Chabahar and Gwadar. If this becomes a reality, Iran and Pakistan would be able to have a mutually beneficial relation, putting an end to RAW’s involvement along the western border.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2017.