Gwadar port was finally been made operational recently with trade activity at the port starting successfully. The port is a key project in the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Gwadar port promises to offer huge dividends not just to Pakistan and China but has the potential to bring about benefits beyond the immediate region.
The trade convoy to be loaded on the ships departed from Kashgar, China, on October 29 and entered Pakistani territory on October 30. The convoy finally reached the port city of Gwadar on November 12. Prime Minister Nawaz who was the chief guest of the grand opening ceremony termed the arrival of the Chinese convoy ‘a watershed event’. Around Rs35 billion has been spent on road infrastructure for the CPEC projects in Balochistan since 2014.
The opening of the Gwadar port and start of trade activity is indeed a watershed even as the Prime Minister said. However, this is just the beginning there is a long way to go before Pakistan is able to reap the rewards of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the functionality of the Gwadar port. For starters various political parties still harbor doubts regarding the implementation of the project. The ambiguities surrounding the project are also a concern. Yet the biggest threat to CPEC and the Gwadar port remains the law and order situation in the country particularly in Balochistan.
There is no doubt that the security situation has improved but it is still a major worry with terrorists able to strike targets and cause massive human loss on a routine basis. Finally there is the lingering problem of taking on board the local leadership and the locals of Balochistan. Unless the locals are made part of the project there will be a major question mark regarding the success of the project. The government must ensure provision of every basic facility of life to the people of Balochistan, Gwadar must be developed as a model city and the locals must be taken into confidence regarding the development projects. Balochistan still lacks far behind in terms of education and health facilities as compared to other provinces. Unless and until these basic facilities are provided to the locals the development of the port won’t do any good to them.
Further the successful operation of the port has dealt a blow to India’s hegemonic designs in the region, the interest from Russia and Iran in joining the project has made our eastern neighbor even more edgy. The Narendra Modi-led Indian government has often publicly expressed its nefarious designs against Pakistan and India could potentially accelerate efforts against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The government should adopt an aggressive foreign policy to counter India’s diplomatic efforts against Pakistan.
On the infrastructure and economic front the government should also work on broadening investments and refrain from putting all eggs in one basket. Despite the CPEC investments foreign investment in Pakistan has decreased this year the situation on the exports front is also alarming. CPEC can help provide the Pakistani economy a massive boost but relying solely on the project can prove costly.
Falling exports and decreasing foreign direct investment is a worrying sign.