Gwadar Port in China’s future geostrategic plan to challenge US dominance in Indian Ocean: US Report
ISLAMABAD - China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town to win over locals and build a commercial deepwater port that the United States and India suspect may also one day serve the Chinese navy.
Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million (Dh1,835 million) in grants for an airport, hospital, college and badly-needed water infrastructure for Gwadar, a dusty town whose harbour juts out into the Arabian Sea, overlooking some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes.
The grants include $230 million for a new international airport, one of the largest such disbursements China has made abroad, according to researchers and Pakistani officials.
Not a usual approach
The handouts for the Gwadar project are a departure from Beijing’s usual approach in other countries. China has traditionally derided Western-style aid in favour of infrastructure projects for which it normally provides loans through Chinese state-owned commercial and development banks.
“The concentration of grants is quite striking,” said Andrew Small, an author of a book on China-Pakistan relations and a Washington-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think tank.
“China largely doesn’t do aid or grants, and when it has done them, they have tended to be modest.” Pakistan has welcomed the aid with open arms. However, Beijing’s unusual largesse has also fuelled suspicions in the United States and India that Gwadar is part of China’s future geostrategic plans to challenge US naval dominance.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters. Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new “Silk Road” of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and megaport to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China’s western regions.