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Gwadar: Bridging Maritime Trade.

Byline: Zafar Ali Buledi

Maritime trade is getting paramount importance and is becoming multi-layered. More than eighty per cent of global trade, in terms of weight and volume, is carried out by means of waters. In this regard, Gwadar port offers tremendous prospects as a maritime trade hub in the region.

Situated in the Arabian Sea at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia, the port of Gwadar holds vast and huge economic returns. It can become a regional hub due to its geopolitical and strategic location. It is a significant component of Pakistan's overall development vision and initiative to provide regional trade connectivity and integration.

Regional economic and infrastructural integration is an important aspect of the globalization process. The twenty-first century is considered a century of globalization, and it has been made possible through an increasing and large volume of trade through the sea. In the process of globalization, Central Asia and South Asia are considered two significantly important regions of the world. The former is rich in natural resources more significantly in oil and gas reserves whereas the latter needs energy supplies due to its rapid pace of development.

In this connection, the demand for Gwadar Deep Sea Port was very much desired to serve commercial traffic in and out the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, Iran, Xinjiang, South East Asia, Central Asian States and Afghanistan. Commercial cargo from these countries could be shipped to the global markets in the shortest possible time making Gwadar one of the crucial export corridors in the region. Being in close proximity with important sea routes such as the Strait of Hormuz, Gwadar can play a very important role by changing the country into a centre of economic activities in the region.

More importantly, Gwadar features outstandingly in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is a vital link between One-Belt, One Road Development initiatives. The CPEC is the largest foreign investment by China in various projects such as energy, infrastructure, Port development etc. Gwadar port is being developed through a comprehensive plan under the CPEC. Once implemented, this will transform Gwadar into a transhipment hub and an economic corridor in the region-a landmark for Pakistan's future growth. The development of port and allied projects will create important and critical linkages between the land and sea transports by bridging the world maritime trade.

In addition, Gwadar's strategic location as the southern extension of Pakistan into the Arabian Sea renders itself as an egress gateway for transit traffic into the landlocked Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. This geographic advantage endows Gwadar with the potential of becoming a commercial and economic hub of the subcontinent much on the same format as a port city like Dubai, Jebel Ali, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Besides that, the development of communication links, the network of roads, railways and related activities, including Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would integrate Pakistan economy with the region and the world.

The development of Gwadar port and CPEC are termed as very crucial and a keystone in the economic development of Balochistan province as well as Pakistan. The port-related projects will generate ample job opportunities for the people of the province of Balochistan. The city development Master Planning and major development initiatives of the government will immensely help to transform Gwadar city into an economic centre of trade and commercial activities.

Similarly, Gwadar has tremendous tourism potential to emerge as one of the top tourist destinations due to its sea life, long open spaces, beautiful beaches and thousands of years old heritage sites.

However, the new port is not without internal and external challenges ahead. The timely completion of essential infrastructure and connectivity is crucial for the functioning of the port at an optimum level. This will benefit all industries, help promote business, create more job opportunities and make the port competitive leading to economic growth. The internal political stability of Pakistan, and particularly in Balochistan province is of equally great importance for the success of the port. Further, a broader, sound and coherent maritime commercial strategy will greatly be advantageous to reap the desired benefits.

The major powers particularly the United States have concerns about China's strategic leverage and consider the development of Gwadar port a risk for Washington's geostrategic sensibilities and a part of the 'string of pearls' strategy i.e. increasing military and economic power of China as well as safeguarding its energy supply needs. Similarly, Gwadar has always remained a bone of contention for India. The main cause was Chinese involvement in the project.

As per media reports, the development of Chabahar port through the Indo-Iran deal is a part to counter the impact of Gwadar.

The economic interests have become supreme as the strategic wellbeing of all nations in the globe is the result of this primary interest. Gwadar has the potential to serve as a regional maritime trade hub port that could significantly serve interests at the regional as well as global levels.

The development of Gwadar is increasingly important, for transforming the economy of Pakistan and the region, due to its centrality among the heavily populated South Asia, the oil-rich Western Asia and resource-rich Central Asia. The rising city of Gwadar will bridge Pakistan with the rest of the world and the port would act as a global gateway for trade and commercial activities.
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Author:Zafar Ali Buledi
Publication:The Balochistan Express (Quetta, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 13, 2021
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