Where is Gwadar? In Balochistan, where else?
The BBC News reports:
Gwadar port is on the Arabian Sea at the mouth of the Gulf through which 30% of the world’s daily oil supply passes.
Officials say the port will benefit Balochistan. That is disputed by Baloch militants fighting the government.
The current estimated cost of the port project is nearly $1bn. Much of the funding has come from China.
While inaugurating the port, President Musharraf described the occasion as “a historic moment” for Pakistan.
A high-level Chinese delegation, led by Minister for Communications Li Shenglin, was in attendance.
Gen Musharraf also announced that a modern airport would be built near the port with Chinese assistance.
“The same Chinese friends will build an airport here for us, where the best aircraft will come,” Musharraf said according to AFP news agency.
Gwadar is expected to provide strategic storage and transport facilities, as well as road and rail links to China.
The port is seen by observers as China’s first foothold in the Middle East.
China’s involvement has been viewed with hostility and suspicion not just in Pakistan, but also internationally.
The port is said to be part of Chinese naval expansion along the Asian and African coasts called the ‘string of pearls’ initiative, according to a US Department of Defense report.
It entails the maintenance of ports and bases at strategic places in the region.
Observers say that United States as well as the Gulf countries have major reservations at the ‘overwhelming’ Chinese involvement in the project.
The Gwadar port is situated right next to the strategic Straits of Hormuz and its busy oil shipping lanes.
The surrounding region is home to around two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves.
It is also on the shortest route to the oil rich Central Asian states through land-locked Afghanistan.
The Association for Asian Research elaborates on the issue of the port and how military presence of some kind is a part of expansion.
Who else is moving into the area? With some form of military? And with defense against Islamic terrorism as part of the discussion?
(Read India and Tajikistan, with ties to Russia, as part of a pact on energy and militant Islam. Discussed in Part III.)