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3 May, 2015

Gwadar Port: Driver for Connectivity between South Asia and East Asia

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), April 23, 2015 — During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Pakistan, the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that links Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has drawn attention in both countries.

The corridor will “serve as a driver for connectivity between South Asia and East Asia,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying.

“China has played a very vital role in most of the projects being carried out in the Gwadar area,” said Munir Ahmed, director of town planning for the Gwadar Development Authority at a strategic seminar about the CPEC held in Hainan Province.

The CPEC is about 533 kilometers from Karachi and 120 kilometers from the Iranian border. Gwadar Port, a well-known deep water port of Pakistan, is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Straits of Hormuz, near key shipping routes in and out of the Persian Gulf.

“Connecting countries between the gulf and central Asia, Gwadar Port is of tremendous geopolitical significance which will stimulate the region’s rich mineral mining and also promote Pakistan’s development of foreign trade and national economy…” reads the memorable monument of Gwadar Port.

“They have worked in poor conditions and overcome tremendous difficulties,” Navid, the engineer who participated in the construction of Gwadar Port, said about the Chinese workers that built the port’s main facilities. “The first phase of construction of the port was completed in 2005,” said Navid. After that, Pakistan transferred management of the Gwadar port from Port of Singapore Authority to China Overseas Holdings Ltd in February 2013.

Leaders from both Pakistan and China have expressed their support for the project. Fu Xiaoqiang, research fellow of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told People’s Daily that Gwadar Port symbolizes China-Pakistan friendship.

Saltajay Aziz Sohail Amin, who serves as the security and foreign affairs consultant, said that the two countries have made a historical step in building China-Pakistan economic corridor. “As the link of the silk road economic belt and the 21st century Maritime silk road, Gwadar Port would be a shining example of cooperation between China and Pakistan,” he said.

Most of the oil tankers in the gulf pass through the Strait of Hormuz. What’s more, the surrounding region is home to around two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. Gwadar Port has the potential to become an energy transport hub, and also a vital part for bilateral trade between Pakistan and western China.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khalid said Gwadar is the end of China-Pakistan economic corridor. Once Gwadar Port is connected with Kashi in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, time and cost for the transportation of Chinese goods and energy would be greatly reduced.

According to Masood Khalid, China’s route to transport energy and goods currently passes through the Strait of Malacca. The China-Pakistan economic corridor would reduce this distance by 6,000 kilometers. Roughly, it takes approximately 45 days for Chinese ships to reach ports in the Middle East and Africa. By comparison, it would take only 10 days to reach Gwadar Port . “By cutting time, distance and cost, this has more commercial value,” Khalid said.

Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan-China Institute, told the People’s Daily that as a bridge of energy transport, CPEC will benefit other countries, such as Afghanistan. In addition, the Gwadar Port project could provide thousands of jobs to local people.

“The biggest factor that hinders the development of Gwadar is that it needs more capital to be developed. Once the capital starts pouring in, everything will start,” said Ahmed with the Gwadar Development Authority.

Chu Daye, Han Shuo and Yang Xun contributed to this report