Balochistan: China’s decision to invest in the Gwadar Port in particular, and the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) in the larger context, should not be seen only in economic terms, as a certain section of people harbour fears of Pakistan being colonised by the Chinese.
Officials like, Captain Gul Mohammed, the head of Marine Operations at Gwadar Port, however, project a brighter picture, believing that the port will be South Asia’s ‘Dubai’.
Sindh Province Governor, Muhammed Zubair, who has been one of the key architects behind the port’s development, suggests that China’s motives behind making the CPEC, has a larger meaning and purpose.
“When you become a superpower and you are sitting on tons and tons of cash, what do you do with that? You have to go global,” Zubair, was quoted by The Telegraph, as saying.
“So, I would not question that they have far more objectives than a win-win for China and Pakistan in economic terms. They want to compete with the United States. This gives them the security leverage that they desperately need,” he adds.
The Telegraph report further quotes Pakistani officials, as saying that the deal with China is Pakistan’s way of actually insurance against a hostile India, and a way of finally breaking free of an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the United States.
“And, it (Gwadar) is widely seen as the jewel in China’s “string of pearls” – a chain of strategic maritime bases in countries, including Myanmar and Sri Lanka, that are meant to guard strategic shipping lanes across the Indian Ocean,” the report said.
China has big plans for Gwadar Port as Chinese contractors will also build a rail link, Pakistan’s largest airport, and a new road to Afghanistan. Desalination plants are planned to support a new desert city expected to grow to 1.7 million people by 2050.
The passage won’t be easy as it seems, the harsh climate is not the only thing builders here must contend with. Pakistan’s military has fought an on-off struggle with insurgents leading a separatist movement in Balochistan for decades.
“The dusty towns that dot the desert are patrolled by heavily-armed Pakistani troops in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns and anti-IED jamming devices,” the report mentions.
“Beijing’s presence here and across much of Pakistan, is palpable,” the report further mentions.
The friendship of China and Pakistan, two long-standing allies, is concerning ordinary Pakistanis.
“It’s obvious that when you are the borrower you’re in a weaker position than the lender,” said one student at a Karachi University. “We were colonised by the British for centuries. Now, people are wondering if we are about to be colonised by the Chinese too.”