The port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s southwestern coast is strategically well-placed just outside the Straight of Hormuz (see map). It is a deepwater port capable of handling international shipping vessels and oil tankers. It was built with help from Chinese money and has been run by a Singaporean company—until now.
The FT reports that China is about to take control of the port, a move that will be viewed with trepidation in India.
China’s assumption of the port contract “will be a landmark development, both for Pakistan and China”, said a senior government official. “This has great value for China,” he said. “We believe the Chinese may use their presence at Gwadar to lay down a pipeline in future for transporting Middle Eastern oil to western China.” […]
Last year, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, then Pakistan’s defence minister, told the FT that it had asked China to build a naval base at Gwadar and expected the Chinese navy to maintain a regular presence there, although Mr Liang said the Chinese government had not discussed the proposal.
China is also working closely with Sri Lanka to develop the deepwater port of Hambantota (map). As these two ports reach optimum capacity, China will have vastly expanded its ability to project commercial control over the transport network used to import oil and other strategically vital resources. Should these ports become staging points for naval activities, diplomats in Delhi will start ringing the alarm bells.