Gwadar Port, Path Of Prosperity

By: Khuda-i-Dost

Gwadar port is a deep-sea, warm-water port situated at Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan at the top of the Arabian Sea and at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, about 460 km west of Karachi and approximately 75 km east of Pakistan's border with Iran.

In 1993, Pakistan started feasibility studies for the development of a major deepwater seaport at Gwadar. The port project commenced on 22 March 2002 with the first phase completed in December 2005.

It is strategically located between three increasingly important regions, the oil-rich Middle East, heavily populated South Asia and the economically emerging and resource-laden region of Central Asia.

Gwadar is located on the southwestern coast of Pakistan, close to the important Straits of Hormuz, through which more than 13 million bpd of oil passes.

Once a small fishing town along the Makran Coast is now set to become a mega seaport which will fulfill the requirement of three geographically important regions, the entire subcontinent, China, central Asia States, and Afghanistan.

Commercially, it is hoped that the Gwadar Port would generate billions of dollars in revenues and create at least two million jobs. In 2007, the government of Pakistan handed over port operations to PSA Singapore for 25 years, and gave it the status of a Tax Free Port for the following 40 years.

The main investors in the project are Pakistani Government and People's Republic of China. China's plan to be engaged in many places along oil and gas roads is evident.

The construction of the Gwadar deep-sea port is just one component of a larger development plan which includes building a network of roads connecting Gwadar with the rest of Pakistan, such as the 650 km Coastal Highway to Karachi and the Gwadar-Turbat road (188 km).

This network of roads connects with China through the Indus Highway. Pakistan, China, Kazakhistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan are developing extensive road and rail links from Central Asia and the Chinese province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea coast.

The project's fate is tied to the decentralization of government in Pakistan. If an agreement is brokered with the Baloch, the Pakistani military will gain a strategic depth southwest from its naval base in Karachi that has long been vulnerable to blockade by the Indian Navy.

China is going to be the beneficiary of Gwadar's most accessible international trade routes to the Central Asian republics and Xinjiang.

 By extending its East-West Railway from the Chinese border city of Kashi to Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest, Beijing can receive cargo to and from Gwadar along the shortest route, from Karachi to Peshawar.

The rail network could also be used to supply oil from the Persian Gulf to Xinjiang. Pakistan's internal rail network can also provide China with rail access to Iran.

The network of roads will finally be connected with China through the Indus Highway. Under an agreement, Pakistan, China, Kazakhistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan are already committed to developing extensive railroad links from Central Asia and the Chinese province of Sinkiang to the Arabian Sea Coast.

Apart from such benefits like enhancement of strategic value of the country and tangible socio-economic benefits for the people of the region, the implementation of Gwadar Project would restore the credibility of the federal government of Pakistan among the people of Balochistan who, for the last five decades, have been fed on false promises of development.

Take for example, Mirani Dam and Saindak Project. The people of Dasht valley have been hearing about the building of a dam on the Dasht River since fifties. Many a time the plans for its construction were announced. But, then, nothing was heard about them.

It is only the Musharaf's government that has taken concrete steps to implement the Mirani Dam Project. Similarly, the Saindak Project has been revived after a delay of two decades.

There is a widespread perception among the people of Balochistan, particularly in Mekran division and coastal areas of the province that their areas are deliberately kept underdeveloped by the federal bureaucracy for political reasons.

Through implementation of mega projects like Gwadar, the present government will not only cause socio-economic development in the region, it will make an important contribution to the process of national integration.