One way or another 46 billion dollars mega project of CPEC has remained in limelight since its inception. Because of One Belt, One Road initiative where another deep seaport will be built in Pakistan, Gwadar now holds strategic and prime importance not only for Pakistan but Chinese vision of greater connectivity among regions. Gwadar features heavily in CPEC and is also envisaged to be the link between OBOR and maritime silk route.
Gwadar is a Balochi word, which means ‘The Door of Wind’. Though located in the Southwestern coast of Balochistan, the area is located on the convergence of three strategically important zones of the world where on one side is oil-rich Middle East, Central Asia with surplus natural resources and South Asia having greater economic potential. Gwadar is situated on a natural hammer-head shape tombolo peninsula forming two almost perfect, but naturally curved, semi-circular bays on either side. Historically before recognising Gwadar as part of Pakistan, Oman had its possession from 1783 to 1958. The strategic value of this location as a deepwater port was identified by the United States Geological Survey when the territory was still under Omani rule. Pakistan bought the area of Gwadar from Oman while Oman previously was also under British rule. British had concluded an agreement with the Sultan of Oman on March 20, 1891, in which the final pledge was, “never to cede, sell, mortgage or otherwise give in occupation any of his dominions or dependencies to the British government”. However, the Pakistani government continued to raise the issue with the British. In 1958, after learning that the Indians are also trying to acquire Gwadar, Pakistan intensified its efforts and succeeded in concluding an agreement with the British Government on August 1, 1958. The British government was already under pressure in a move by UNSC where it was blamed for armed aggression against the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Imamate of Oman. The Sultan of Muscat was also in dire need of funds to continue his campaign against the Imam. According to the agreement the Pakistani government had to pay an amount of £3 million ($10m) along with some concessions to the Muscat Government. Hence in 1958, Gwadar was transferred to Pakistan, through the British representative. On behalf of the Sultan of Muscat, the Wali handed over Gwadar to the representative of the British Counsel General in Muscat, who in turn, handed over possession to Pakistan. The Pakistani side was represented by Mr Agha Abdul Hamid, who was the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and Secretary Cabinet Division. It was made a tehsil of district Makran in the Balochistan province till July 1, 1977, when it was given the status of a district. Gwadar day is celebrated on December 8 every year to mark the annexation of Gwadar with Pakistan.
Realising the potentials the area of Gwadar offers and its capacity for construction of another deep seaport after Karachi Port and Port Qasim, work on its development is being carried out with an ace. The port under construction at Gwadar is owned by Pakistan government’s Gwadar Port Authority and operated by state-run Chinese firm China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC). Gwadar Port is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Straits of Hormuz, near the key shipping routes in and out of the Persian Gulf. Being a deep seaport, having warm waters, shortest sea route, throughout the year availability and strategic location, Gwadar is considered as a gateway and hub of all commercial and trade activities which is going to generate business ventures further. Hence, Gwadar is always referred to as the future economic hub of Pakistan, where the presence of Special Economic Zone, transit trade, and industrial complexes will bring a huge chunk for Pakistan’s economy.
Nevertheless, the area of Gwadar in the past remained deprived of basic necessities of life and livelihood of a common local is dependent on fish catching. Now, the fisherfolk also hope for a better future with the advent of Gwadar port. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan Navy has done and still doing remarkable work for the better upbringing of locals. Apart from establishing schools, hospitals, infrastructure and provision of other socio-economic uplift programmes for locals, it is trying to ensure the safety of marine life and coastal environment for future generations. Pakistan Navy not only welcomes outsiders but is busy in creating a healthy learning environment for natives through sports galas, national days, festivals and many other activities to cherish the civil-military relationship and create harmony, integration and cohesiveness among many local communities.
It is noteworthy that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a framework of regional connectivity and is meant to improve the lives of people of Pakistan and China by building an economic corridor promoting bilateral connectivity, construction, exploring potential bilateral investment, logistics and people to people contact. CPEC will not only value China and Pakistan but will have a positive impact on Iran, Afghanistan, India, Central Asian Republics. Therefore, through the augmentation of geographical linkages we have seen, improved new road networks development and anticipate that with the passage of time academic, cultural and regional exchanges, people to people contact will enhance the volume of CPEC. The future of better and prosperous Gwadar is not far and it becomes the responsibility of all Pakistanis to realise the potential our land holds for us. Notably, in the era of 5th generation warfare, we must not let our foes exploit our assets by giving the impression of confusion and division within the state. As CPEC project is considered as a win-win model, therefore enhancement of cooperation should not be politics or system bound and continue to work towards integrated regional connectivity and countrywide evolution with congruence and progress.