Chinese influence around the world, especially in resource-rich states, is in the process of taking another step towards expansion. The Pakistani deep-water Gwadar Port, in the Baluchistan Province is about to come into Chinese control. The Singapore Port Authority (SPA), partnered with the National Logistics Cell and AKD Group are in the process of abandoning the effort of establishing the port as a major shipping center and port. Prior to being given to the SPA and their partners in 2007 with a 40 year contract, the Chinese government invested $288 million (U.S.) in what is still Pakistan’s only deep-water sea port.
Five years later the project remains unfinished due to disputes over land within the Pakistani government and armed forces. The Pakistani Navy has failed to hand over 584 acres which is vital to the project due to the need for road and port development.
Ports & Shipping Minister Babar Khan Ghauri, in disapproval of the Navy’s actions in halting the port’s development, and said that the Pakistani Navy needs to quit acting like “real estate companies” and realize that the land is Pakistan’s. Much of the Pakistani public is also upset with how the Navy has slowed the completion of the port as a major shipping center which would ultimately bring millions into the region, but that does not mean that the project is over. Capitalizing on the struggles within the Pakistani government and Navy, China plans to invest $10 billion into the project in order to have a heavy hand in the trade of the area.
With an annual nominal GDP of $240 Billion and a growth rate of 3.7%, China is all too aware of the potential gains with increased trade with Pakistan and the region as a whole. With 43% of their economy based in agriculture and 20.3% based in industry, as well as being located in the middle of major petroleum shipping routes, Gwadar could be very beneficial towards helping the growth of China as a hegemonic power.
Located approximately 70 km from the Pakistani-Iranian border, at the northern tip of the Arabian Sea and just east of the Gulf of Oman, the Gwadar Port is not only an economic asset for the Chinese, but also a means of developing a greater sphere of influence in the region. As evidenced by U.S. and Iranian tensions along the Straits of Hormuz and the Syrian Crisis, having a strong military presence in the region is vital for any power to secure a steady flow of petroleum.
Furthermore, once developed, the Chinese could very well set up a large naval station at Gwadar under the guise of ‘protecting the port’. In reality it would be a blatant example of China exercising military might and influence in the region. Keep in mind the Chinese have abandoned previous projects in the area in the past decade due to the threat of separatist insurgency and violence. This includes a $12 billion oil refinery project. Terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of Chinese engineers, so Chinese officials would have a perfect excuse for placing naval elements in and around the port. This would not be a financial strain for China either, with a defense budget of $106 billion.
The Gwadar Port is just one example of the continued uncertainty in the region as well as the undefined roles of key players, including Russia, China and the United States. China is well poised to use this financial investment for military gain, however.
Troy is an Army brat and the father of combat medic. He is also a retired Infantry Senior NCO with multiple combat tours, in addition to several stateside deployments. Troy retired from the Army and has worked in Information Technology consulting and as a contractor for the U.S. Army. He serves on several task-forces and enjoys working with soldiers every day. Troy is also a recognized and multiple-award winning military blogger who writes at www.bouhammer.com, and a familiar person in many social media circles.