Operationalisation and opening of trade activities at the Gwadar Deep Seaport marked a golden day in Pakistan’s history as an old dream finally came true despite consistent internal and international conspiracies to rock the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The talk about building and making the Gwadar Port functional has been going for several years, but it has now been translated into a reality as goods loaded in more than 150 containers, coming from China, were actually shipped for foreign destinations.
The completion of the Gwadar Port was tremendously stimulated under the CPEC after the grand projects under this game-changer were concluded during the visit of the Chinese president to Pakistan last year. The present government greatly pushed their early completion as no regime has done in the past.
Apart from the massive economic gains that the Gwadar Port will bring to Pakistan and China, it also serves as a great milestone in the strategic relations of the two countries.
The worst terrorist attack at the shrine of Shah Noorani in Khuzdar district of Balochistan a day before the grand ceremony at the Gwadar Port marking its operationalization was timed with this historic event. This was part of the evil designs of the enemies of Pakistan, who are in great commotion over the fast completion of the CPEC projects. But the opening of the port crushed their efforts to put roadblocks in the way of progress of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rightly said at the special momentous ceremony that the day marked the breaking of dawn of a new era and vowed to ensure that the CPEC and all projects under its umbrella would materialise within the given time.
Gwadar, near the border with Iran and to the east of the Persian Gulf and opposite Oman, is located on the shores of the Arabian Sea, approximately 700 kilometres to the west of Karachi.
Gwadar and its surrounding region were overseas possessions of Sultanate of Oman from 1783 until Pakistan purchased the territory on September 8, 1958. Pakistan assumed its control on December 8, 1958, and the territory was later integrated into the Balochistan province on July 1, 1977, as Gwadar district.
The strategic value of its location was first recognised in 1954 when it was identified as a suitable site for a deep water port by the US Geological Survey at the request of Pakistan while the territory was still under Omani rule.
The area’s potential to be a major deep water port remained untapped under successive Pakistani governments until 2001, when construction on the first phase of Gwadar Port was initiated. The port remained underutilised after construction for a variety of reasons, including lack of investment, security concerns etc.
In April 2015, Pakistan and China announced their intention to develop the $46 billion CPEC which in turn forms part of China’s One Belt, One Road. Gwadar features heavily in CPEC, and is also envisaged to be the link between the One Belt, One Road and Maritime Silk Road project. Infrastructure projects worth billions of rupees have been started in Gwadar as part of CPEC with the aim of linking northern Pakistan and western China to the seaport.
In addition to investments directly under the aegis of CPEC in Gwadar, the China Overseas Port Holding Company in June 2016 began construction on the $2 billion Gwadar Special Economic Zone, which is being modeled on the lines of the Special Economic Zones of China. In September 2016 the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) published a request for tenders for the preparation of expropriation and resettlement of Old Town Gwadar.
Hitherto Pakistan’s total reliance has been on its sole port in Karachi. The Gwadar Port offers the second excellent facility. Chinese goods, to be transported by road till the Gwadar port, will be shipped from there for onward foreign destinations.