Gwadar Port

by Sekundar on 9/17/2010 · 5 comments

Lately, the Pakistani blogosphere has been discussing the merits of handing over the administration of Gwadar Port on the Baluchistan coast to the Chinese government. This serves China’s interest as a big pearl in the string thereof (pdf), and China did build a great deal of the deepwater facility (putting forth four times the Pakistani investment in 2001). The port serves Chinese interests in checking both India and the Persian Gulf, and they can already use it (it’s a secure zone). I would think, though, Pakistan would prefer to hold on to the place as point of leverage, especially if a rail line through the Karakorum ever becomes a reality, and so will be a little surprised if Pakistan hands it over. Not that Pakistan’s politicians have lacked for short-sightedness.

India complains (using colorful yet simple analogies: “Chinese string of pearls could choke India”) as if a. they would be more comfortable with an increased Pak Navy presence there instead, or b. either Pakistan or China care what India thinks about the matter. I’m not sure why India hasn’t reacted more strongly to this; despite numerous heated editorials, what could be a grave threat earned little more than a bad joke from former foreign minister Mennon a year ago (“a string of pearls is a pretty ineffective murder weapon as any ‘clue’ aficionado will tell you”) and almost no action on the government’s part. Gwadar is the latest, and biggest of Chinese installations into what is arguably India’s backyard. This will lead, if India is savvy, to a new round of Indian engagement in Central Asia (Daily Mirror). Chinese and Indian firms bid over rights in mineral rights in Afghanistan, and India has shown great interest in air facilities in Tajikistan. Energy pipelines are also under discussion (pdf), although without Pakistan cooperation that could be tricky. India may see itself as China’s rival, but it has yet to convince me. China would no doubt enjoy the port, but it will damage Indo-Pak relations, and cause ripples across Central Asia.

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– author of 24 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Sekundar works in national security, and has worked and studied in Central and South Asia.

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DPT September 17, 2010 at 4:41 am

All the hype about the Gwadar port has to be balanced by the fact that the route of any Chinese fleets from, say, Hainan to Gwadar must pass by the increasingly heavily-armed and US backed states of Southeast Asia. Not that Gwadar and the string of pearls does not matter, but a lot of the Indian competition with China will occur in building up capabilities and competition for influence in areas such as Burma. China has to be able to increase its influence in the South China Sea and Southeast Asia before the string of pearls becomes a viable threat – though it does demonstrate that China is thinking in the long-term about its role in Eurasian geopolitics.

Caleb Kavon September 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Great post..this does not get to much publicity….Glad you brought it up….something important to analyze..Thanks..

Umair September 17, 2010 at 11:44 pm

India is worried that they are starting to lose influence within Central Asia and Afghanistan. Any sort of agreement involving China in Gwadar will surely heighten their anxiety…

Grant September 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Many of those ‘pearls’ really aren’t that dangerous to India. Not knowing the capabilities of the Gwadar port I can’t say what ships it could hold but I do know that the famous example of a Sri Lankan port ignored the fact that it would be impossible for naval ships to dock there.

Umair September 19, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Well, what makes Gwadar more valuable to both Pakistan and the Chinese is that it is created so that naval ships do have the ability to dock if necessary. They have made it in fact specifically to take a lot of the stress of Port Bin Qasim in Karachi. Gwadar is expected to assist in increasing the trade value of Pakistan as well.

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