By. Ahsan Muhyuddin - Islamabad:
China and Pakistan speed up work, making the mega-port city, Gawadar, which would be operational at the end of this year. However, on the other side of the border an increased infrastructural activity can be noticed in South-Eastern part of Iranian port, Chabahar, a port city where India is rolling up sleeves in order to obtain direct access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan , her arch enemy. The only Iranian port with direct access to Indian Ocean, Chabahar, is said to be Iran’s second most important port after Bandar e Abbas that handles 85% of Iran 's seaborne trade and is highly congested.
Chabahar port lies in the city of Chabahar in South-Eastern Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan province near Pakistan-Iran border. Its location lies in the Gulf of Oman near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which covers more than 20% of world’s petroleum trade. Just over the border, at only a flight distance of 170 Km from Chabahar lies the port of Gwadar which happens to be world largest deep-sea port where China has been investing extensively, perusing her dream of China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC), and clearing way to Chinese concept of Maritime Silk road that will save Chinese Economy billions of dollars annually by shortening the trade routes.
Tensions have been on since Iran , a Muslim and neighboring country to Pakistan handed over direct control of Chabahar port to India by signing a series of twelve Memorandum of understandings, making Chabahar a direct competitor to Gwadar in the region, that too with Indian help, a country which has been exposed for destabilizing the region over course of time. New Delhi got involved in building port as early as 90s. India also spent a sum of $100million during 2005-2009 constructing a road from Delaram in Afghanistan to Zaranj at the Iran-Afghan border.Ambitious Modi, eyeing a larger role in Afghanistan and with aims at making Chabahar a rival port to Gawadar, India recently offered financing Chabahar-Zahedan Railwayat the cost of 1.6 billion dollars.
Afghanistan is looking to reduce substantial reliance on Pakistan , is expected to sign a tripartite transit trade agreement on using the port as an alternative route, according to them this could boost up bilateral trade to $3 billion from $700-800 million. Just like CPEC, India too is perusing actively on North-South-Transport-Corridor, a multi-billion-dollar prospect of road-links, railway connectivity and infrastructural development between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and Chabahar being its first base in South Eastern sector. For a number of reasons,Chabahar cannot compete to Gwadar , at least not in the time being.
Gwadar is a deep-sea port, designed and built to harbor very large and heavily loaded ships. The depth of water helps massive ships to get access to port. Regular ports like Chabahar, are by and large of recreational types where the water is not more than 20 feet deep, whereas deep-water port of Gwadar is compatible with the large heavy loaded ships with up to 30 feet depth. The depth makes it the most economical port in the region. Along the 800km coastal line in Southern Baluchistan,no coastal city like Ormara ,Pasni or Jivnie can provide a hammer-head formation deep into the sea like Gwadar does, Making it ideal for deep-sea port. This trait is absent in Chabahar.
The port of Gwadar is near to getting full operational as the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif announced that first cargo ship will reach Gwadar by the end of this year. With only 10 berths as compared to 13 of Gwadar , Chabahar is nowhere near getting operational and development pace can’t match that of Chinese engineers working in Gwadar .
Investing body in Gwadar China Overseas Port Holding Company, a renowned and efficient working force, Beijing in past has extraordinary experience in developing and managing big ports. Beijing also funded a port in Sri Lanka and has been approached to help build a similar facility in Bangladesh.
Whereas India Ports Global Private Limited (IPGPL), which is supervising Chabahar port is not as sound as compared to Chinese, professionally nor New Delhi can afford monetarily to invest at a scale Beijing is investing In Gwadar and CPEC. Notorious Indian intelligence agencies such as RAW is believed have set up a separate cell in order to sabotage CPEC and Gwadar development, for which Pakistan Army launched a designated Special-Security-Division which will protect CPEC and port of Gwadar . Eagar to prevent Gwadar from getting successful and with a number of other terrorism activities inside Pakistan , New Delhi is leaving no stone un turned to cause chaos following Beijing’s announcement of investing 48 billion dollars on CPEC.
Indian Naval serving officer,namely,Kulbhushan Yadav was recently presented to international media for his confessional statements regarding his role in sabotaging CPEC and other heinous activities inside Pakistan . Developing Chabahar is of course in best interest of India , which is long competing Chinese influence in region and back-stabbing Pakistan anywhere possible. Both enduring adversaries to India , Pakistan’s and China’s economy is sure to boost once CPEC is completed and Gwadar is fully operational which will bring prosperity to the people of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s most backward and Indian sponsored terrorism-hit province.
Ports can’t be run without massive investment and business. China itself expected business through Gawadar port is over $500 billion dollar and on the top of that Chinese companies are planning to shift their manufacturing plants here to reduce the cost. This will boost the international business here. Analysts believe, after full operational Gawadar port would be the regional hub of international business. In such conditions it would be silliness or a political joke to compare the Gawadar with Chabahar or call it to the alternative of Gawadar port by India or Iran .