Gwadar is set to become the Bridgehead for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Pakistan’s Gwadar port previously was a remote and impoverished place, But now it has been changed into the biggest asset, a $54 billion project launched in 2013 linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion-dollar development project with China aimed at constructing a 21st century Silk Road. The city is now ready to become the bridgehead for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Gwadar port is situated on a barren peninsula in the Arabian Sea, it is also known as the “gate of the wind”, owes its fortuitous selection as Pakistan’s next economic hub near the Strait of Hormuz to its strategic location.

The corridor is one of the largest projects in Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, comprising a network of roads and sea routes involving 65 countries. The main aim of this Chinese-financed initiative is to connect the country with Africa, Asia, and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. But the participation of Pakistan in the project presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and a range of insurgencies in areas slated to host the corridor.

Dostain Khan Jamaldini, chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority, told reporters that “This port is going to help Pakistan make linkages with neighboring countries. The entire nation will be getting benefits out of Gwadar”.

one of Pakistan’s poorest and most violent provinces, where separatist insurgencies have been waged for decades. The people of Gwadar are the first beneficiaries of this port. But on the same note, the subject of economic dividends is extremely sensitive in resource-rich Balochistan.

The project includes the country’s first deep-water port, a free-trade zone and 50 kilometers (31 miles) of dock space. From the very beginning of the project, militants have repeatedly attacked construction sites and targeted Chinese workers.

Jamaldini said that “The port belongs to us, Gwadar port is not Chinese, our strong partner is Chinese and we appreciate their boldness, They came to Gwadar when nobody was accepting the idea to come and visit.”

Contested territory

Gwadar has been in the eyes of China for years. previously an earlier scheme to develop the port prior to 2007 was financed by Beijing. And later it was overseen by a Singaporean group. But the risk of insecurities was so high that the Singaporeans handed it back to the Chinese in 2013. Over an infrastructure project that crosses through disputed Kashmiri territory, India makes no mystery of its reservations. So the ambitious corridor is also very far from the popular region of our country.

Jim Mattis US Defense Secretary this month raised concerns about the issue, sparking a fierce backlash in Pakistan and claims Washington was trying to “contain China” in favor of arch-rival India.

According to Brigadier Kamal Azfar, who heads “Brigade 440” — a security outfit created to protect CPEC projects and personnel Showed his diplomatic concerns, for the security, as like Gwadar remains a key issue.  he said in reference to accusations India has backed insurgents hostile to the project that Hostile forces are trying to “scuttle or stall CPEC”. Developers hope will be remedied by dams and desalination plants outlined in the scheme as because the area witnesses the lack of water and electricity.

Property prices near the port doubled between 2014 and 2016, said Sajjad Baloch, the director of the Gwadar Development Authority, before falling 20 percent. Officials also worry the peninsula will fall victim to real estate speculation. And despite promises of future prosperity, skilled labour is lacking, says Mohamed Siddique, who runs a local hospital. Even with modern facilities it operates at a limited capacity because of a dearth of specialists.

Chinatown

The expressway leading to the site is unfinished. As in Gwadar city, economic activity spurred by CPEC remains limited. In the port, during AFP’s recent visit a lone freighter was anchored. Only three to four arrive every month, according to port authorities.

On various projects live in prefabricated houses on the port About 300 Chinese people working — coined Chinatown — but only venture out with a security escort, about 100,000 is the population of the city that is projected by one estimate to jump tenfold by 2050, has relied on fishing and the artisanal construction of boats for generations.

Baloch said up to 50,000 people, mostly fishermen could be “gradually” resettled to make way for the project, He further added that adding the potential move could see them relocated to a “state-of-the-art jetty”. For the jobs, the first priority will go to Gwadaris, “then to the Balochis, then to the people of any part of Pakistan.”

“We are hoping to get a job there,” said Juneid.

According to locals building boats on a nearby beach, few Gwadaris have been hired at the port, it’s a chance to right the wrongs of past subjugation for other.

Abdullah Usman, 47, a social worker said: “Balochistan province should get the maximum benefits instead of outsiders, It will be unfortunate if the local Baloch do not benefit, which would cause a long sense of deprivation an increase in the several decades.”

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