Apart from economic linkages, Gwadar port also provides a military base to China by opening up the passageway to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The military groundworks in favor of both China and Pakistan as not only will China be able to create a regional control over other Asian maritime facilities, but Pakistan, with the help of China’s advanced oceanic surveillance, will be equipped with the monitoring capabilities to detect and counter any threat coming from Its regional rival India. Moreover, it is also essential for China to expand its political strength in the form of naval and military power to compete with the already developed control of the US over the Strait of Malacca that extends along the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia.[1]

From a larger perspective, the building of Gwadar port under CPEC can be seen as a part of its much larger global plan of Chinese BRI. This is why the successful implementation of the Gwadar port is all the more necessary. The project’s monetary needs are majorly handled by the concessional loans and grants by the Chinese government and the through loans by different domestic financers. Due to such a diverse magnitude of stakeholders involved ever since the start of BRI, the steps taken by both China and Pakistan to safeguard Pakistan’s maritime zones have increased tenfold.[2] The PMSA, under its 1994 ACT, has launched an intensive task unit to protect maritime properties, lives on both national and international levels. Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed an agreement with China Shipbuilding and Trading Company that provided PMSA with the construction of four 600 and two 1500 tons patrol ships to protect Pakistan’s maritime zones and continue China’s hold in the region.  On this front, the Chinese Navy has also contributed in the form of collaborative shipbuilding projects, training courses, and various naval exercises.[3]

The Maritime Security collaboration is essential for the successful turn out of CPEC

Another security measure that has to be taken into consideration is the incidents of maritime terrorism, illegal gun-running, piracy, and drug trafficking. It is not only a security issue but also brings forward the economic risk. To counter this, Pakistan Navy is working in collaboration with international navies in programs like the Annual International Maritime Conference, the AMAN series of biennial multinational naval exercises to execute maritime operations.   

It is also important here to shed light on China’s naval interest that is directed towards the Indian Ocean. Gwadar port is one of the chains of ports that China is developing across the Indian Ocean to establish itself as a naval force in the region. Apart from Gwadar, China is extending its maritime facilities in the areas of Bagamoyo (Tanzania), Lamu (Kenya), Kyaukpyu (Myanmar), and Colombo and Hambantota (Sri Lanka), while Chinese companies are investing in other regional ports.[4] This pattern of acquisition is an indication of a much larger plan that will provide the Chinese Navy with the necessary strategic position to control the key areas of the Indian Ocean, establishing itself as the dominant player in this Oceanic region.

Under this framework, China is all set to further its operation in Pakistan by developing its second overseas naval base. The top contender for the next project is seemingly the Jiwani port in Baluchistan, which also holds great strategic importance as it is located in between Gwadar and Chabahar port of Iran. There has been a talk that the Chinese government has been in talks with the Baloch separatist to bring stability to the region.[5] This news has been endorsed on different fronts and may shed light on China’s next move. It is proposed that would result in further corporation between Pakistan and China and will also provide strengthened maritime security and new energy sources for both countries, respectively.

Apart from economic linkages, Gwadar port also provides a military base to China by opening up the passageway to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean

The prevailing circumstances make indispensable the maritime security collaboration between China and Pakistan. This diplomatic and strategic nexus that both countries have developed is not only critical in order to safeguard regional peace and security, but it has also become a paramount structure that is necessary for the survival of both countries in terms of the economic and political sphere.  The China Economic Corridor provides China with the Oceanic routes that link it with the countries that are beyond its reach via its own routes. The channel with the Middle East covers China’s energy deficit, the most determinant aspect of its industrial and consequently economic operations. At the same time, it also provides China with the open passageway to unleash its political influence over the Arabian Sea and across the Indian Ocean. On the other Pakistan has much to gain from this joint initiative. It has been bestowed with great strategic significance, but it lacks the resources to manifest them for its advantage. The Maritime Security collaboration is essential for the successful turn out of CPEC, which provides Pakistan with the economic boost that its economy desperately needs. Furthermore, with China’s assistance, it is now better equipped to secure its Oceanic boundaries from any external threat.[6] This ensures both economic and naval capacities for Pakistan to become a regional player.  

[1] Khan, M.T. (2016a), “CPEC and significance of Maritime security”, (December), available at: https://pakobserver.net/cpec-significance-of-maritime-security/

[2] Kamran, R. (2017), “Pakistan navy inaugurates 3rd force protection battalion’s building”, Pro Pakistan.

[3] Collin, K.S.L. (2016), “China and Pakistan join forces under thse ea”, available at: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/china-pakistan-join-forces-under-the-sea-14829?page=3

[4] Kalim, I. (2016), “Gwadar port: serving strategic interests of Pakistan”, South Asian Studies, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 207-221.

[5] Gupta, A. (2018), National Security, in Gupta, A. and Dutta, S. (Eds), 1st ed., Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi.

[6] KS&EW (2019a), “Comppleted rojects”, available at: www.karachishipyard.com.pk/category/projects/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *