“If we see this whole region, it is like a funnel. The top of the funnel is this wide area of Central Asia and also China’s western region. And this funnel gets narrowed on through Afghanistan and Pakistan and the end of this funnel is Gwadar port. So this funnel, futuristically, is the economic funnel of this whole region”
(Former President of Pakistan Pervaz Musharraf, 2002: 22nd March)
The globalization has brought trivial changes in the world economy and has led the civilization to a ‘Border less Civilization. This phenomenon has considerably increased the sea trade from, 2.37 billion tons of cargo to 5.88 billion tons of cargo moving through the sea. After years of painstaking deliberations by Government of Pakistan, Just because of strategic importance of Gwadar port, it was chosen as the most suitable alternate port apart from Karachi and Bin Qasim Ports amongst eight potential locations of Keti Bandar, Sonmiani, Hingol, Ormara, Khor Kalmat, Pasni, Gwadar, and Jiwani.
With a population of 227,984 having 12,637 sq kms area, Strategic importance of Gwadar Port yields of its vitality for regional and extra regional key players. Gwadar Port has the potential to acquire the status of a center piece as a gate to Strait of Hurmoz; it can compete with the UAE ports by improving the exiting links to Caspian Region, and thus providing a better trade for route to land locked Caspian Region. Strategic importance of Gwadar Port is very much clear that it has the potential to be developed into a full-fledged regional hub and a trans-shipment port in the future. However, this unique opportunity when viewed in today’s changed global environment can also be seen as a junction of conflicting interests.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for Pakistan
A. One of the Strategic dimensions CPEC of Gwadar Port points is that Pakistan has very little strategic depth from east to west; Gwadar port will increase this strategic depth considerably, as a strategic port being further away from India. The additional distance of 460 Kms away from India will decrease the vulnerability of Pakistan.
B. Gwadar port will help Pakistan to monitor the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) originating from the Persian Gulf and bottle neck at Strait of Hormuz.
C. It is farthest from Pakistan’s eastern neighbor and thus provides more warning time against air and naval threat.
D. Strategically, considering the establishment of Naval Bases at Gwadar port and Ormara by Pakistan, presence of Chinese Naval assets, domination of Arabian Sea at Persian Gulf by U.S 5th Naval Fleet and Indian aspiration to emerge as a Blue Water Navy will be checked.
E. This will also establish Pak-China naval nexus to deny maneavour space to Indian Navy in Indian Ocean.
F. Chinese naval presence is likely to improve Pakistan’s coastal defence.
G. The Gwadar port will enable Pakistan Navy to uninterruptedly observer the expanse of Arabian Sea for suitable retort to any hostile activity. The current involvement discloses that during the tautness epoch, India had endeavored to lurk Pakistani imports originating from Southeast. Implementing a similar approach by intimidating Indian SLOCs for quid-pro-quo reaction is equally vital .
“Due to its strategic location the Gwadar port will become a major port of the region”
and will be able to provide the trans-shipment and ware housing facilities to the South East Asian Countries.
The latest events in the region and hue and cry from Indian side is also shows that India is closely observing the CPEC project and realize the strategic importance of Gwadar Port.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for China
A. In case Malacca Strait is blocked by U.S, Gwadar port can serve as an alternate route for Chinese trade in the Indian Ocean and to West Asia. In military and strategic terms, Gwadar port can help China to monitor the sea-lanes from the Persian Gulf as about 60% of Chinese energy requirements come from the Persian Gulf and transit along this sea-lane. The Gwadar Port can provide China a Listening Post to Observe the Indian naval activities around the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Adan.
B.The Indian activities in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden have always been an eye sour for the Chinese’s. Zhao Nanqi, director of the General Staff Logistics Department of the Chinese Navy issued a top-secret memorandum explaining the People Liberation Army’s strategic plans to enhance control over Pacific and the Indian Ocean in accordance with the “high-sea defence” policy by pursuing its ‘string of pearl strategy’. Zhao stated that
“We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as only an ocean of the Indians”.
Chinese naval presence at this critical choke point of Gulf can not only check the INDO-US domination of Indian Ocean but can also strive to achieve its aim of being a naval power. A naval base at the mouth of the Indian Ocean will help China in checking the Indian hegemonic designs in the region.The Gwadar Port can provide the Chinese with a listening post to observe the naval activities of USA in the Persian Gulf 460 km further west of Karachi and away from Indian Naval Bases of Gujrat and Mumbai.
C. Apart from the utilization of port an existing land link can be of help to China in improving its ever expanding trade to Central Asia, Middle East and Africa, as it will reduce the sea distance to 2500 kms instead of 10000 kms via CPEC. Gwadar port offers China, a tactical position in the energy rich Caspian Region thus, affording a substitute trade route for the western Xinjiang province, thus utilizing it as a trade route through Gwadar Deep Sea Port. Chinese’s economy is expanding at the rate of about 9% every year with trade volume of U.S $1.76 trillion and GNP ranging up to 7.3%. China has foreign exchange reserves of U.S $ 600 billion. Having such a strong and a potent economic growth rate China is expected to be the world leading economy in year 2025. Its growing economic needs are re-defining its fiscal procedures to encompass several countries for a progressive and a pragmatic economic development by enhancing the permanent buyers in international arena for her products.
D. In military and strategic terms, Gwadar Port can help China to monitor the SLOCs from the Persian Gulf as about 60% of Chinese energy requirements come from the Persian Gulf and transit along this approach.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for CARs
There are two routes available to them, one passing through Iran (Chabahar) and the other leading through Pakistan (Gwadar). Due to prevalent international environment, western countries are not in favour of the trade route through Iran; hence Gwadar emerges as a more viable alternate port.
A. The Caspian Region is in need of a suitable route for pipeline approaches and Gwadar port as a gateway to Strait of Hurmoz is the most suitably option.
B. The CARs are still dependant on Russia, mainly because of the old Moscow based communication grids which control international mail, telephone, telegraph links and other communication infrastructure. Russia was and is still alarmed by the possibility of cheap Central Asian gas for European market because it would compete with Russian gas giant Gazprom. In order to get rid of Russian influence and to strengthen their own economy by exporting their abundant mineral and oil wealth, besides the Caspian Sea there are two routes available to these countries, one passing through Iranian Chabahar Port and the other leading through Pakistan. The western oil exploring companies are not in favour of the trade route through Iran; hence Gwadar emerges as most viable port.
C. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will produce more dry cargo than other CARs and Gwadar port will prove to be the shortest access to warm waters.
D. 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 through CPEC.
E. Route to Mediterranean Sea passes through Russia which is a point of concern for Europe, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been gifted with a number of natural resources. These resources are not fully exploited and the process is unlikely in the near future too. On the other hand Afghanistan currently has few exports i.e. steel, agriculture, textiles, etc. It is most likely that the country will be dependent on the imports and the aid from the donor nations, for which it had to depend on a transit agreement with Pakistan. Whatever the likely imports or the exports, Pakistan can benefit from them by providing a safe transit route through Gwadar. A few facets 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. 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.
C. The U.S would like that the Afghan trade should be routed through Pakistan and not through Iran.
D. Afghanistan will get all the port related amenities, warehousing services, transit conveniences and import opportunities.
It is also the need of the time that Afghanistan should realize the strategic importance of Gwadar port.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for Persian Gulf Countries
Persian Gulf countries are the pivot of the world’s oil trade. They share two third of international oil trade. Besides the exports in the oil sector, the Gulf region has very few exports and is largely dependent on the imports from around the world. Other than these imports the region is now developing in the re-exports with Iran and India. Considering the above mentioned facts the Gwadar port, due to its location, will be significant to the Gulf region because of the following reasons:-
A. Oman, the next door neighbour, is likely to profit most from this project by capitalising on the trade from China and the CARs. Therefore, Oman’s Government is taking a lot of interest in the project.
B. Millions of dollars grant to take up various development schemes are in the pipe line. An electric power house is being constructed with an amount worth Rs 50 million (equivalent to U.S $ 0.80 million).
C. The Gwadar Port complex will be able to provide the services of showcasing, Storage, trans-shipment, transportation, and coastal employment, saleable market and manufacturing openings for worldwide export-import opportunities.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for Asia
A. Iran is having real concerns over the development of Gwadar port for its close proximity to Iranian ports of Chahbahar and Bandar Abbas. Gwadar port can generate a commercial rivalry, which can be exploited by India. Besides her concerns Iran has taken the initiative by establishing an oil refinery at Gwadar in order to share the trade, transit and strategic potentials.
B. The SAARC agreement of financial growth and collaboration accentuates fast-tracked economic development, upgrading the quality of life, wellbeing, education, human resource improvement and poverty mitigation. The region includes one of the prime marketplaces in the global village. Pakistan with its contemporary transportation amenities and sea ports will also supplement development efforts of the SAARC countries.
Strategic Importance Of Gwadar Port for Europe
A. Russia is interested to establish gas and oil pipelines in Northern region passing through Caspian Sea, port of Novorossiysk and Baltic Sea to Europe to avoid possible U.S and Islamic pressure.
B. Turkey and Georgia are also in favour of western routes. Turkish western pipeline from Baku to Turkish Mediterranean through Ceyhan port at the cost of U.S $ 3 billion is a point in case.
C. European nations are striving to reach this mineral rich region through Caspian Region earlier than other key players through Gwadar and Afghanistan.
D. In order to bridge the geographical gap Turkey proposed to establish a railway link between Central and South Asia (India), the proposal failed because of the terrestrial limitations. In the present global circumstances and availability of Silk Route Pakistan appears to be the best option.
E. The energy reliance of the European monetary alliance led by the U.S necessitates Caspian Region to be interconnected and combined to the worldwide marketplaces via a dependable and harmless trade way that evades its passageway through Iranian or Russian land. Politically required and parsimoniously desirable course. The European monetary alliance also points at the Arabian Sea, passing through Afghanistan, on the coastlines of Pakistan.
Both military and economic power now depends upon oil. In military and strategic terms, Gwadar will help Pakistan to monitor the SLOCs from the Persian Gulf. Gwadar is of strategic importance, lying across the SLOCs emanating out of the strategic choke point of Hormuz, from where 13 million barrels of oil is transported daily. Globally, from the waters of Gwadar one can regulator the whole Indian Ocean with trade courses of far eastern countries, Pacific Rim and Persian Gulf Region. Pakistan will be able to prevent any ‘bottling’ of its navy as was witnessed during the Indo–Pakistan conflict in 1971 and also during the Kargil crisis, by developing Gwadar. The port will afford strategic depth to Pakistan’s marine assets, both commercial and military. Gwadar Sea Port is not only providing strategic depth to Pakistan but will surely bring in prosperity for entire region.