Thursday, July 24, 2014


Pakistan

Gwadar: A Port For China, A Tinderbox For Balochistan?

Beijing says it wants to use Gwadar as the hub of an energy corridor to its western province of Xinjiang.
Beijing says it wants to use Gwadar as the hub of an energy corridor to its western province of Xinjiang.
By Charles Recknagel and Abubakar Siddique
Pakistan and China say developing the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan, will promote trade throughout Central Asia. But Baluch nationalists see an effort to drown out their calls for independence. 

Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud is one of the most influential Baluch tribal leaders, whose ancestors once ruled the vast Baluch territories. He calls the Chinese project a new effort by Pakistan’s dominant ethnic group, the Punjabis, to dominate his homeland.

"When China is interfering the way it is, we [don't have] any choice but to defend our land," Daud says. "China has come over there on [the Punjabis'] or the [Pakistani] Army’s invitation. We have not invited them."

Amir Ahmed Suleman DaudAmir Ahmed Suleman Daud
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Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud
Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud
Many Baluch nationalists accuse the Punjabis – a term they often use as a synonym for the Pakistani government -- of treating Balochistan as a colony and stealing its energy and mineral wealth. Balochistan for years has been torn by violence as armed separatist groups periodically attack Pakistani military outposts and sabotage gas and oil pipelines.

Even moderate Baluch leaders see a danger in China’s plans to now invest millions of dollars into developing Gwadar, a little-used port near the Iranian border, as a regional trade center and possible naval facility.

Attracting Migrants

Hasil Bizenjo, the vice president of the moderate Baluch National Party, supports Chinese investment in the port because it could help create local jobs. But he worries the boom could attract more migrants from other parts of Pakistan at a time when the Baluchis fear becoming outnumbered at home.

"Our demand has been that anybody working here should not have the right to vote for 30 years," Bizenjo says. "Our demands have been considered in the past. I think this reservation is not limited to the nationalist factions alone. It is shared by the entire population of Balochistan. I think the government of Pakistan will have to address this reservation ultimately."

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Currently, Baluchis make up some 5 million of the province’s total estimated population of 9 million -- a fraction of Pakistan's overall population of nearly 190 million.

The insecurity in Balochistan raises the question of whether both Islamabad's and China’s ultimate motivations for seeking the port are commercial or strategic.

Beijing says it wants to use Gwadar as the hub of an energy corridor to its western province of Xinjiang. But at the same time, Beijing has secured a string of port facilities in the Indian Ocean that increasingly allow it to project its own naval power westward.

'String Of Pearls'

Andrew Small, an expert on China and Pakistan at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C., sees a strategic interest. "The security situation in the country as a whole, not just in Balochistan itself, means that [the energy corridor] is looking much trickier than it was when the project was first conceived, which puts some people on the Chinese side back on looking at the port primarily for its use as a potential naval facility," he says.

Small says China’s close military ties with Pakistan mean Beijing could expect to use Gwadar as a "semipermanent facility" for fueling and provisioning naval ships -- much as China does elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, notably in Burma, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

The residential area of Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea
The residential area of Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea
China’s chain of naval facilities in the Indian Ocean is often dubbed its "string of pearls," and its projection of sea power secures its sea links to the Persian Gulf, the source of 60 percent of China’s crude-oil imports.

Any naval facility at Gwadar would allow Chinese sea power to extend west almost to the Persian Gulf itself at a time when tensions between Western powers and Iran -- a major oil supplier to China -- are at a peak. It also would complete an encirclement of Pakistan’s archrival, India.

Both explain why Washington and New Delhi have a high interest in watching whether Gwadar evolves into an actual Chinese naval base.

Many analysts believe Gwadar will stop short of that. "It is very important to note that for now, despite Pakistan's request that it do so, China has said it does not want to establish a naval base and has refused to do so," says Shahshank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London. "So right now we are talking about a civilian Chinese company and not one that is just a front for the PLA," China's People's Liberation Army.

'Solely' Commercial

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony expressed concern earlier this month over Pakistan’s decision to transfer management of the deepwater port to China. But Joshi says the protest was largely pro forma.

Washington has said nothing publicly about the deal.

Then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (left) salutes as China's Minister for Communication Li Shenglin (right) looks on during the inauguration of the Gwadar port on March 20, 2007.
Then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (left) salutes as China's Minister for Communication Li Shenglin (right) looks on during the inauguration of the Gwadar port on March 20, 2007.
Meanwhile, Islamabad insists the deal is only commercial in nature.

"I think we should only look at this venture as an economic and commercial venture," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazam Ahmed Khan told reporters in Istanbul last week. He added that the plan is "solely focused on improving development of the area, helping Chinese goods reach other markets, getting China the shortest route for its energy supplies."

Small says China’s commercial plan is to bring oil from tankers docking at Gwadar by truck across Balochistan to connect with the Karakorum highway that connects northern Pakistan to southern Xinjiang.

However, no such roads from Gwadar exist today. The port is linked by road only to Karachi -- a coastal route that avoids the restive interior of Balochistan and does not meet Beijing’s desire for a shortcut to Xinjiang.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: IMDAD ALI SHAH from: DUBAI
February 27, 2013 17:21
"However, no such roads from Gwadar exist today. The port is linked by road only to Karachi – a coastal route that avoids the restive interior of Balochistan and does not meet Beijing’s desire for a shortcut to Xinjiang."

karachi is very near around 200 kms an a high quality road is in place, furthermore from karachi to china , road is in place and 90% of which is really of good quality , so once developed, it will serve chinas objective very well. and a great news for Pakistan!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 28, 2013 06:22
It's important not to forget why it is that countries-members of the BRICS club - such as China in this specific case - are getting increasingly active on the international arena building such facilities as the one in Gwadar: the reason is that the US is about to go bankrupt - maybe already tomorrow (Friday) in the case if the Obama administration and the Congress do not manage to agree on their "sequastration" plan - and for this reason the US can no longer cajole govts - such as that of Pakistan - into denying the BRICS the opportunities of building ports and other civil and military facilites.

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
February 28, 2013 06:42
Baloch nationalists must know that Baluchistan never existed as an independent state. Qalat is not Baloch. The province of Baluchistan was created in late 1960s by the military government of Yahya Khan as an administrative unit. Historically, Qalat served as a military-post fo Persia and Sindh to oversea the coastal areas. It was Sindh that Arabs called Al-Hind, now called modern Pakistan. It is true that Baluchs have been mistreated under various Pakistani government., However, Baluch emerged as a Cold War event, supported by then USSR, Afghanistan, India, and Sadam's Iraq. Revival is a result of the Afghanistan conflict. Pakistan's Frontier Corp chief stated that 20 foreign intelligence agencies are involved. It will likely cool down with the end of conflict in Afghanistan and with regional economic development. Geopolitical development in Central Asia have initiated some attempts to geopolitical engineering, most likely to fail, because because the wrong premises. The number of original Baloch population cited in article are wrong. Balochs comprise around two million. Rest of the province include Pashtuns, Sindhis, Brohis, Makranis and others. Baluchistan has been destabilized, but it is temporary. Moreover, Baluch must know that development involves migration. Baloch concerns about the rights are correct and must be addressed constitutionally in full spirit. Rail and road networks from Gawadar to Chaman and all the way to Karakuram are included in the plan. Afghanistan war and impact of extremism have delayed, but will continue with the construction of the eecond phase of Gawadar port construction. It will be among the busiest ports in the region. Indian concerns arise from it's perceived future competition with China and Pakistan in the region. However, for thousands of under various historic epochs (Buddhist, Brahmanic and Islamic orders) China has traded through the ports of Sindhu Valley (Indus as Greeks called it). Chinese trade through Pakistan is not a new.. Also, until the 15th century China maintained its naval fleet of 1500 warships navigating from East and Southeast Asia to East Africa. Fleet was stopped -for unknown reasons- by Qublai Khan. Briefly, with the opening of the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and climatic changes geopolitical situation of the world is bound to change within the next two decades. Even Suez Canal will be losing its importance by approximately 50 percent, as South and Far East nations together with Russia will be trading more with Europe by the northern route. Therefore, it is too early to comment on Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Economic undertakings always ultimately lead to military presence, but in this case, Chinese naval presence in Indian Ocean will be caused by India-China competition. Opening of Northern sea-route is bound to reshape several regional alignments. I wonder, if India would be interested in competition or rather in trade/transit routes towards Eurasia. The Eurasian Geopolinomics, not the traditional geopolitics and/or geo-economics will be playing major role. The Baloch nationalism together with attempts towards regional geopolitical engineering will likely calm down, replaced with with new broader regional developments and patriotism.
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
February 28, 2013 18:57
" Also, until the 15th century China maintained its naval fleet of 1500 warships navigating from East and Southeast Asia to East Africa. Fleet was stopped -for unknown reasons- by Qublai Khan "

The "treasure fleet" which you are talking about really operated in the 15th century. Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) commanded it.

But it wasn't stopped by Qublai Khan as you mention as Kublai Khan died 140 years before.

In reality it was Zhu Zhanji the Xuande Emperor who ordered a last 7th voyage and then the operation of the fleet was discontinued.
In Response

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
March 01, 2013 08:35
Sir, you are right. I read the book very long time ago. Thanks for having corrected my mistake.
In Response

by: Kal from: na
March 07, 2013 23:34
Pakistan is in death bed, china knows it very well and rest of the world, right now Pakistani army may need more begging bowls than only china, Aiming for Gwadar and Iran Pipeline does not works its too late, if you can not pacify crime in you own cities, cant progress your economy you atomatically seize ti exist.

by: Asad from: karachi
February 28, 2013 08:01
The Participation of China in Gwadar will bring prosperity and socio economic uplift of the whole western region of Pakistan.
Pakistan in the past manage Balochistan province through different tribal leaders (Sardars) which was not a wise policy because these tribal leaders lacks vision and they are very clannish in nature (as the two of them mention in this article). Now, due to emergence of youth and fresh ideas Balochistan showing signs of change and forwardness.

Although Karachi Port has got excellent facilities and it handles 90% of the maritime traffic of the whole Pakistan but it is already choked and 250+ Nautical Miles Eastward from Gwadar. So, the issue here is capacity and infrastructure building and Gwadar offers best of the two.

And all this ‘China taking over’ and ‘strings of pearls’ are just non-sense and lacks analytical approach. The World at large and this region in particular needs trade, development & peace. The two super powers (USSR in Past and USA current) brings nothing but war & destruction.

Long Live Pak China Friendship.
In Response

by: Baloch from: Secret
March 01, 2013 10:47
That's exactly why feudal and corrupt warlords like Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud are crying foul and using the ethnicity card. The people of Baluchistan need to be freed from the clutches of feudal warlords. This is an excellent move by Pakistan to involve the Chinese and bring prosperity in Baluchistan. By the way, I'm a Baloch.
In Response

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
March 02, 2013 11:23
See, there are many Baloch folks with different viewpoints. This one understands the actual situation than many of our think-tanks, and other US government funded agencies do. Time to do some soul-seraching, not to waste money in undesirable and unpredictable adventures.
In Response

by: ADeel from: PAk
March 03, 2013 09:52
I appreciate brother ur insight and finally found somebody from Baluchistan who has the vision for it. You know without deviation from Norm, Progress is not possible. As all men are agreed upon that, the only thing which is constant in this anarchic world is change. Though Its happening very late in Baluchistan but a good sign of progressive and prosperous future of Baluchistan. In modern relations every state wants to secure its national interests so the China, Pakistan and the contending parties. Yes there will be Chinese urge to have naval presence in Arabian water that not only secure its interest but also will serve as a shield for Pak. Some may agree or may not but it will shape in a strategic partnership between Sino-Pak. The states those have greater game plans in this region, their plans will be hampered. Countries include Iran, Afghanistan, India, Russia, USA and the Gulf States.

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