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Gwadar Port: Emerging City or Chinese Naval Base?

In 2013 Pakistan awarded China a contract for the construction and operation of the Gwadar Port. Gwadar will become the economic hub of world trade and economic activities after its completion in 2030.

As part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and by extension, that of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gwadar holds pivotal importance. The port city of Gwadar is a hub of connectivity for the Corridor, and an indispensable interchange for the BRI. Through its deep-sea port, Gwadar has helped China and Pakistan realize the goal of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Route, which will benefit not only China and Pakistan, but also Central Asia by becoming the region’s key port.

CPEC, however, plans not to limit Gwadar to a connecting port only, but enriches it as an economic hub that will cater to the local population by improving their livelihoods. Projects planned for the Gwadar Port City aim at assisting Balochistan to its full economic, social, technical, and energy potential, and closely integrating it within the economic framework of Pakistan and China.

CPEC is a 3,000 km corridor from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar in Pakistan on the Arabian Sea. Huge Chinese funded infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks as well as power plants, are being built along the way. Originally valued at US$46 billion, the corridor is estimated at US$62 billion today.

The port of Gwadar is located in the Southwest part of Pakistan. It overlooks the Arabian Sea near the Strait of Hormuz, where 1/3 of world's oil trade transits. Early on, the port was under the control of Oman from 1779. However, it became under the control of Pakistan in 1958.

In 2015, China leased the port of Gwadar for 40 years in a bilateral agreement with Pakistan to direct its goods directly to the Gulf region and the Middle East via the port. China has shown its interest in investing $4.5 billion for the construction of roads, hotels, airports and other infrastructures in the vicinity of Gwadar. In 2016, the dream turned into reality. China shipped its first goods in the direction of Gwadar to cut 3000 km from the north-west China province of Xinjiang to Gwadar in the western part of Pakistan on the Gulf of Oman.

One thing is sure: Gwadar is not just a regional conflict issue. The USA stands in the line of India and the UAE as Russia intervenes to support the Bank of China and Pakistan, which means that the issue has become an international conflict over domination and influence.

David Oualaalou is a Geopolitical Consultant, Award Winning Educator, Veteran, Author, and former International Security analyst in Washington, D.C.

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