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Vipin asked: What could be the implications of Gwadar Port being handed over to a Chinese company?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: China is seeking to enhance its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean with the ostensible aim of securing the transportation of energy resources from the Gulf region. Its interest in ports in the South Asian region - Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan - is part of this strategy. However, analysts the world over argue that its strategic interests go beyond this. Its strategic nexus with Pakistan over the last more than five decades gives a special connotation to its interests in Gwadar. China is aiming at connecting Gwadar with its restive province of Xinjiang through the Karakoram Highway. It intends to convert the highway into a strategic corridor (with railway lines and oil and gas pipelines) and use it for transporting energy from the Gulf region as well as resources from Pakistan.

    However, the Sino-Pak plan to use Gwadar for strategic purposes has not taken off primarily because of the prevailing instability and uncertainty in Balochistan. Therefore, as long as Pakistan does not address the concerns of the Baloch people, it is highly unlikely that Gawadar can ever realise its full potential. Due to this reason, the Singaporean company which had won the tender to manage the Gwadar Port decided to leave, forcing Pakistan to invite China to manage it. Because of its strategic interests alone— since it does not make business sense at all at the moment— China decided to accept the offer. Chinese behaviour, thus, needs to be monitored closely to understand its intentions in the coming days.