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Gwadar

Pakistan handed over management of its strategic deepwater Gwadar seaport to China in February 2013. Both countries insist the deal is a purely commercial venture. But critics and financial analysts are skeptical about the remote port's economic viability and believe it will be used for military purposes. The Gwadar port lies near the Strait of Hormuz, gateway for about 20 percent of the worlds oil. Beijing provided most of the port's initial $250 million construction cost, as part of a plan to establish a trade and energy corridor from the Gulf, through Pakistan and on to western China. Since it was first handed over to a Singaporean operator in 2007 the isolated facility has been a commercial failure. Baluchistan's ongoing instability and local political opposition are largely responsible.

Pakistan announced 07 May 2011 that China had agreed to its request to take over operations at a major port, while hoping that Beijing can also help build a naval base there. "The Chinese government has acceded to Pakistan's request to take over operations at Gwadar port as soon as the terms of agreement with the Singapore Port Authority (SPA) expire," Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) quoted Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar as saying in a statement. According to APP, Mukhtar said Pakistan appreciated that the Chinese government agrees to run the port, but would be more grateful "if a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan." Gwadar has been run as a commercial port under the current deal between Pakistan and Singapore Port Authority (SPA). India's Defense Minister A.K. Antony last week voiced "serious concern" toward so-called growing defense ties between China and Pakistan and said New Delhi's only answer was to strengthen its military capabilities.

On 20 March 2007 President Gen Pervez Musharraf officially opened, along with Chinese Minister of Communications Li Shenglin, the countrys third port at Gwadar on Tuesday and promised a fourth port to be built at Sonmiani in the Lasbela district. Once completed, the Gwadar port will rank among the world's largest deep-sea ports. The Gwadar port project will transform Pakistan's Navy into a force that can rival regional navies. The government of Pakistan has designated the port area as a "sensitive defense zone." The Gwadar port will rank among the world's largest deep-sea ports. The port provides China a strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

In December 2007 the Government of Pakistan approved a plan to establish two new large sized shipyards at Gwadar in Balochistan Province ("Gwadar Shipyard") and Port Qasim near Karachi in Sindh Province ("Qasim Shipyard") on a fast track basis. The Gwadar Shipyard is planned to be established at Gwadar East Bay (Shamba Ismail area), on an area of approximately 500 acres (2 sq. kilometers approx). Initially planned to carry out ship repairs, it shall lead to ship building of up to Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and Ultra large Crude Carrier (ULCC) size and will have at least two dry docks of approximately 600,000 DWT.

On 01 October 2008 Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Minister for Ports and Shipping Qamar Zaman Kaira to finalise the sites for building shipyards at Karachi and Gwadar. Gilani expressed the government's resolve for the development of shipbuilding industry in the country, saying that setting up of two shipyards in Karachi and Gwadar would go a long way in catering to domestic as well as international needs. He stressed the need for making Pakistan a leading shipbuilding country of the region, thus contributing towards economic development and poverty alleviation. Two world class shipyards on joint venture basis were proposed to be built at Gwadar and Port Qasim. These projects would attract major investment from foreign sources.

Located at the entrance of the Persian Gulf and about 460 kms from Karachi, Gwadar has had immense Geostrategic significance on many accounts. The continued unstable regional environment in the Persian Gulf in particular as a result of the Iran/Iraq war, the Gulf war and the emergence of the new Central Asian States has added to this importance. Considering the Geo-economic imperative of the regional changes, the ADB's Ports Master Plan studies considered an alternate to the Persian Gulf Ports to capture the transit trade of the Central Asian Republic (CAR) as well as the trans-shipment trade of the region.

Both Karachi and PQA were considered for such development but were found unattractive to major shipping lines due to the remoteness from the main shipping routes, the limitations of draft for mother ships and large bulk oil carriers and the comparative long turn around times. The ADB studies, however considered Gwadar to have the most advantageous location for such an alternative port in the region, which could handle mother ships and large oil tankers in due course.

Keeping that aspect in view as well as the inherent strategic and economic benefits that Gwadar Port offered, the transport plan of the 8th Five Year Plan (1993-94) of Pakistan included the development of Gwadar Port as an essential element of its aims and objectives. Technical and financial feasibilities therefore were under taken resulting in decisions for the development of Gwadar Port by the Govt. of Pakistan.

The Project started on 22 March 2002, and was on fast track completed in scheduled time in March 2005. With initiative and calculated risk, the Port received merchant ships since January 2003 and had been able to off load hundreds of tones of cargo imported for the Project, thus saving precious time and money which otherwise is required for transportation of the same cargo by road from Karachi/PQA to Gwadar.

Phase II of the project involves construction of more berths on BOT basis including two container berths, one bulk cargo terminal, one grain terminal with capacity handling vessels up to 100,000 DWT, one roll on/ roll off terminal, two oil piers for vessels up to 200,000 DWT and future expansion of two container berths. On completion of the project, Gwadar Deep-sea port would be on of the world's most strategically located port in this part of the world.

Total amount equivalent to Rs 14.9 Billion (248 million US dollars) were approved by ECNEC for Phase-I of the project. The financial agreement for development of Phase-I was signed with the Govt. of China on 10 August 2001 under which the Chinese will provide US$. 198 Million and the Govt. of Pakistan will provide US$. 50 Million.

Gwadar [population: 50,000-100,000] is a deep sea warm water port located in Balochistan province of Pakistan. Sitting at the door of the Oil-rich Persian Gulf and the strategic Gulf of Oman, Gwadar is Pakistan's alternate economic, military and strategic base to the already saturated Karachi and Bin Qasim ports, as well as an efficient alternative to the Iranian port of Chah Bahar - a port designed to capture the lucrative Central Asian trade corridor.

Historically, Russia showed the same interest in the Pakhtuns in a quest for achieving a warm water port like Gwadar in Pakistan or Cha Bahar in Iran. During the Cold War the Soviet Union was rumored to have its eyes on Gwadar as a naval base - the fabled warm water port that had been Moscow's ambition since the days of Czarist Russia.

An obscure fishing village a few years back, Gwadar warm-water port's inaugural by the Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo on 22 March 2002 marked its entrance into the list of the world's most important economic and strategic locations in a big way. Gwadar Port became functional on 21 December 2008 with the arrival of a large ship carrying fertiliser.

Gwadar is an open roadstead and port in Makran, Baluchistan, situated in 2508' N. and 62 19'E., about 290 miles from Karachi. On the hill overlooking the town is a stone dam of fine workmanship. The shore of Gwadar Bay from Sar trends west-southwestward and southward 12 miles to Gwadar Promontory, and is low and sandy; it then trends eastward 2| miles to Ras Nuh. The bay is generally shallow, a flat of about 2 fathoms extending from 1J to 2 miles eastward from the isthmus. The deepest water is off Sar and Jabal Mahdi, and the 5-fathom line from Ras Nuh trends toward the highest peak of Jabal Mahdi; westward of this line the water shoals regularly toward the flat, with sand bottom.

The bay is well sheltered from southwesterly winds, but in the southwest monsoon the long low swell rounding Ras Nuh causes vessels to Fdll heavily. During easterly winds communication with the shore is sometimes difficult, but these winds are rarely strong enough to endanger a vessel; a steamer at such a time might enter West Bay.

Gwadar Head is a rocky peninsula, the eastern extremity of which, Ras Nuh, bears 214, distant 8| miles from Sar; it is 7 miles long east and west, about 1 mile broad, and connected with the mainland by a low sandy isthmus 800 yards broad, on which stands Gwadar town, and on either side of which are Gwadar and West Bays. The headland is surrounded by cliffs, and slopes down from the highest bluff of 480 feet, which rises southward of the west coast of the isthmus. Ras Kamiti, the western point of the headland, is a cliff about 70 feet high. A small white tomb on the southern edge of the cliff, about 1 mile eastward of Ras Kamiti, is conspicuous on northerly bearings when the sun is shining on it.

As of around 1900 Gwadar was a small village, and a bad port, but the sole one on the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. Although this port is located in the territory of the Khan of Beloutchistan, its revenues went into the treasury of the Sultan of Oman. The climate is very warm, humid, and very unhealthful. Its inhabitants were intrepid mariners. Gwadar, until around 1900 the principal town and port on the Makran coast, is situated on the sandy isthmus northward of Gwadar Head. At that time it was said to be a dirty place, and it was advisable for visitors to sleep on board their ships, as fever was prevalent among Europeans. Most of the dwellings were mat huts, but a number of mud and stone houses, among which the Khojah mosque is conspicuous, are clustered round a square fort with a high tower. There are a few date and banyan trees.

With a population of 4,350 persons (1903), the majority were fishermen. The Portuguese attacked and burnt the town in 1651 ; and at the end of the next century it was taken by the Khans of Kalat and was handed over by Nasir Khan I to Sultan Said, a brother of the ruler of Maskat, for his maintenance. It since remained, with about 300 square miles of the adjoining country, in the hands of Maskat, the ruler of which place was represented by an Arab governor, or wali, with an escort of twenty sepoys. The value of the trade, which was carried on by Hindus and by Khojas, locally known as Lotias, was estimated in 1903 at 5 lakhs of exports and 2 lakhs of imports. The contract for customs, which were generally levied at 5 percent. ad valorem, was leased for Rs. 40,000 in the same year. Gwadar was a fortnightly port of call of the British India Steam Navigation Company's steamers.

A few sheep were obtainable and also a small quantity of onions and potatoes. Rice, ghi, and other articles of native food could be procured; fish is abundant and good. Water of indifferent quality and in small quantity was obtainable from wells or by digging about 12 feet deep. There was no coal.

It had a telegraph. The second wire of the land-line in Persia had been more or less completed in June 1867. To strengthen the communications in that country, and meet the probable increase of traffic from the Russian side, a third wire was then further projected, extending from Tehran to Bushahr, but the proposal remained for some time under consideration. The land-line from Gwadar to Jask was completed on 15 August 1869, and the" successful accomplishment of the latest operation supplied a double line of communication for the whole way between Karachi to Bushahr ; from which port to London, and vice versa, were two grand alternative lines, one via Tehran and Russia, the other via Baghdad and Constantinople. The construction of the Makran coast land-lines was a matter involving mental anxiety and powers of organization, with physical labor and endurance of no common kind.

The Kalat State National Party or National Party was formed in 1920. It was influenced by the Bolshevik Revolution led by Lenin in Russia and the Afghan revolution of Amanullah. It remained underground and operated clandestinely for ten years before surfacing in 1931 in Kalat. The party definitely was against the British Raj. In 1939 it vehemently opposed British efforts to secure on lease the port of Jewani from the Khan of Kalat. The port is located in the Gwadar Bay right on the Iranian border and very close to the Gulf. It was considered the next best alternative to the port of Gwadar in that area. It was important to British stretched lines of communication and also to British India's security, serving as the farthest forward post on the Makran Coast in the Arabian Sea. The British had been trying to obtain its lease as the Sultan of Muscat and Oman had withdrawn refueling facilities provided to the British at the port of Gwadar. Mainly due to opposition from the National Party, the British failed to acquire the lease of Jewan from Khan of Kalat. Not unnaturally, the British were antagonized.

Gwadar remained an Omani possession after independence of Pakistan, until Hajji Muhammad Iqbal Baluch and Liaqat Ali Khan asked for the annexation of Gwadar to Pakistan because of its vital Geo-strategic importance. As a result, Gwadar was repurchased from the Sultan of Oman, and it became the part of Baluchistan Province of Pakistan on September 8th, 1957. Since then, the port remained an insignificant fishing village, till in 1997 when it suddenly gained world-wide attention as an alternate to Hong Kong after its annexation to the Communist China. Even though the plan didn't succeed, Gwadar became a subject of interest for the newly established Central Asian Republics for trans-Afghanistan trade, as well as China to connect its Zingkiang province by a port.

Until September 1958, Oman had exercised legal and actual suzerainty over the port of Gwadar, which was an alien enclave in Pakistan on the Makran Coast. It had an area of approximately 300 square miles. Some people thought that if the supposedly US supported coup had succeeded in Oman, the US government would probably have sought to build a military base in Gwadar. The United States has been trying to acquire certain rights to utilize Gwadar port facilities in lieu of military and economic assistance. It is conjectured that the United States has, from time to time, needed base facilities in Pakistan to counter communist threat in the region in pursuance of its plohal policy based on the "Truman Doctrine", followed by "Eisenhower Doctrine" and the "Nixon Doctrine". To begin with, it seemed, the relationship between Pakistan and the USA was not particularly very happy, especially in view of a degree of cooling off of friendship between the USA and Britain. At one stage Malik Feroz Khan Noon, the Prime Minister of Pakistan criticised the US "for lack of sympathy and understanding" The US Presidential candidate senator John F. Kennedy in his election compaign speech went as far as saying without reservation; "We want lndia". There is no doubt that India would have provided the best leverage to the US to circumvent China. At that time, China somehow bothered the United States more than, even its more powerful rival the USSR.

Pakistan's geographical location was important, though, apart from its north-western craggyland and massive desolate Baluchistan to retard Soviet's move towards the Arabian Sea, some of its territory provided vantage sites for electronic surviellance over the Soviet Union "core" areas. Badabare, near Peshawar suited the Americans to peep electronically through the Hindu Kush and monitor activities of the Soviet satellite launching and missile testing sites at Tyuratarn.

The port of Gwadar promised multifarious posibilities. Its strategic location in the Arabian Sea could facilitate electronic surveillance. Indeed Gwadar in Baluchistan and Herat in Afghanistan lie diametrically opposite to each other within the limits of Mackinder's Rimland. They have been pivotal in the "Great Game", or in the Central Asian Question. In the power tussle of the two super powers there cannot be any tangible outcome without referrence to these vital points in the region. They serve as two tiers of the Eastern Dyke of the "Northern tier" formed by the British and later supported by the US to stop communist Russia's advance in the region.

What Herat was to land based military powers of Eurasia, Gwadar was to the maritime powers, in the Indian Oceans. In their own times, Herat was important to the Greeks, Sakas, Mongols, Persians, Russians, Germans, and the British, Likewise, Gwadar was important to the Greeks, Arabs, Portugues and the British. Then both were important to the Soviet Union and the USA, the two chief contenders in the "Great Game" which had truly been revived. Gwadar's proximity to the Gulf and South Asia, its access to the Middle East, Central Asia, Eurasia and the World Oceans, lent it a unique geo-strategic importance. The Port of Bandar Abbas located laterally opposite to Gwadar in Iranian Baluchistan was somewhat comparable. Had it been occupied by the USA that would have created political implications not only for Pakistan but also for other states including the Soviet Union.

It was therefore necessary for Pakistan to seek to remove this foreign enclave from its Makran coast. On September 6, 1958, Pakistan through the good offices of the British Government, with which Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon had long and intimate relations, purchased the port of Gwadar for a price that seemed high at that time. Later developments showed that it was an act of statesmanship.

It was generally believed in the US at the time that the Soviet forces moved into Afghanistan in 1979 with the ultimate motive of capturing oil of the Persian Gulf. The economic realities of the second half of the 20th century [ie, oil] had added a new dimension to Russia's age old quest for a warm water port in the gulf. More than half of the oil involved in international trade comes from the region. In the words of former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, "the consequences of a cutoff of Persian Gulf oil, for us in the west, are too catastrophic to ignore". A Soviet naval base in Iranian Chah Bahar or Pakistani Gwadar would carry a message of its own to the entire Indian Ocean littoral. It would give the Soviets the means to lean particularly hard of those states that supply strategicminerals to the West and Japan. This could give Moscow the potential for coercing Western Europe and Japan into trading oil for advanced technology. Keeping in view the large differential in their relative dependence on Gulf oil, such a policy could beused to drive a wedge between the United States and her closest allies. By this reckoning the politico-economic stakes in the Gulf were nothing less than global in nature.

Afghanistan's importance to the Soviet Union in 1979 was that this small mountainous nation lay like a fortress protecting the southeastern flank of the 'oil crescent.' Lying between the unstable regimes of Ayotollah Khomeini in Iran and President Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan, the Afghan mountain passes led directly to the Iranian oil fields to the west and south to the dissident Pakistani province of Baluchistan, whose fiercely independent and anti-Zia tribesmen controlled the Port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Control of the Port of Gwadar would provide access to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, long a Soviet objective. A Russian supported secession by Baluchistan would give the Soviet union access to Arabian Sea ports, access to the Indian Ocean, and the opportunity to threaten the Persian Gulf oil supply routes. Iran's position was certainly threatened by this Soviet coercion as well. Access to the Port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea in Baluchistan would have provided the Soviets with an opportunity for the first time to interfere with the oil flow through the Persian Gulf.



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