Gwadar Port’s strategic importance & India’s concerns
India has made its reaction explicit over Pakistan’s decision to hand over administrative control of the strategically located Gawadar Port from Singapore to a Chinese company. The statement of A.K Antony, India’s Minister of Defense and strategic experts expressing their ‘’concern’’ reflected the fact that they are not happy over this important decision of Pakistan.
The Indians fear that through administrative control of this port, China might get access to the strategically important Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea and even extend its military clout to these waters by using this port as a naval base.
Although Pakistan and China have made it clear that this port is commercial and would not be used for military purposes, Indian apprehensions have not been allayed. Each and every nation is within its sovereign rights to develop its ports and give their management and control to any country it finds suitable.
Indo-US Strategic Partnership is a threat to the security and strategic interests of some states in the region but India did not care even an iota for their concerns and apprehensions in this respect. Pakistan is not bound to consider concerns of India or any other state for that matter.
It made this decision in its own larger interests and handed over the control of the Gawadar Port to a state with whom it has all-weather and long-standing strategic partnership.
Gawader Port is a living example of Pak-China cooperation in an area which is beneficial for both the states. China has provided funds and technical assistance for this purpose. The need for construction of this port was felt due to rising commercial activities on and insufficiency of the Karachi port which could not fulfill the requirements of a maritime state which depends for most of its trade on sea routes.
Its commercial value for China lies in the fact that it can be conveniently used for transportation of oil and gas from the Middle East and Central Asia to western China through Karakoram Highway.
In the absence of the Pakistani port facilities, it is required to use the long and circuitous sea routes of the Indian Ocean and enter the South China Sea after passage through the Straits of Malacca. This route, besides being long and expensive, is hazardous and unreliable because it passes through those parts of the Indian Ocean where Indian and US influence is dominant and might create problems for China’s trade and commerce, especially imports of vital energy sources such as oil and gas upon which its rising economy is so dependent.
This is an area where they can hit Chinese interests more easily during times of tension and clash.The Gawader Port provides an alternative route to China which might ensure uninterrupted supply of hydro-carbons to its mainland without being blocked by India or the US.
This is one of the hidden objectives of the Indo-US Strategic Partnership to create a bloc against the rising power of China and enhance their joint potential to protect the vital sea lanes for their commercial and military activities and make these hazardous for China.
China does not and cannot challenge the Indian and US supremacy in the Indian Ocean where these countries have already entrenched their respective positions to the exclusion and disadvantage of China and other powers. If the US or India ever made any attempt to block Chinese commerce or trade in the Indian Ocean, the latter has the option of using the Pakistani route via Gawadar Port. India’s concern of China using this port for extending its military muscles into the strategically important Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea are baseless. Both Pakistan and China have made it clear that this port is meant only for commercial purposes and under no circumstances will it be used for military objectives.
Pakistan cannot allow China or any other nation to use the Gawadar Port or any other territory or asset under its sovereign control as a military base against another country because it would jeopardize Pakistan’s own security at the hands of the power or powers whose security or interests are threatened so. But neither can it be deterred by the pressure tactics of India or the US from giving the management and control of this port to China and allowing it to use it for commercial activities. China is our all-weather friend whose assistance in the economic and military development of Pakistan is hidden from none. The construction and development of the Gawadar Port is a symbol of Pak-China joint cooperation which is beneficial for both the countries but which is directed against none. This port may also serve as the shortest possible route for the Central Asian states for their imports and exports through the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Giving management and control of the Gawadar Port to the US or any other power closely allied to it would have jeopardized Pakistan’s own security as well as security of China. It would have put Pakistan to a great disadvantage. Already its presence in Afghanistan and connivance at the Indian subversive activities against Pakistan from the Afghanistan is a matter of concern for us.
Pakistan could not give control of such an important strategic asset to an unreliable country that has entered into strategic partnership with its main adversary and itself denied the same privilege despite the fact that it is its old friend, the greatest non-NATO ally and the front-line state in the War against Terror.
(Iftikhar Ahmad Yaqubi)