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China takes control of Pakistani port

June 3, 2013

The long-negotiated plan between China and Pakistan for the Chinese development of the port of Gwadar reached a milestone late last month as China has formally assumed control of the development and eventual operations of the planned port (and potential PLAN naval base).

Gwadar is on the far western edge of the Pakistani coast, giving China direct access to the Arabian Sea and the vital sea lanes of communication through which most of its imported oil must flow.   Gwadar is the necessary culmination and the most important piece in the Chinese “String of Pearls” strategy.  The International Security Observer has an excellent rundown of the geostrategic significance of Gwadar to China (and, therefore, to her rivals India and the US).

String-of-pearls

It must be noted that Gwadar is located in the far west of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the security situation is fragile and where no major roads or railways have been built which connect the port to the rest of Pakistan.  China is investing money and working with Pakistan to build those connections, but the Islamic militancy of the virtually ungoverned badlands of Pakistan may now turn its eyes on China, which has its own native Islamic problem in its western Xinjiang province which may add fervor to those militants who take on the Chinese presence.

As China builds up its presence in Gwadar, the US prepares to exit Afghanistan and, with that withdrawal, curtail attacks on Pakistani based terrorists.  Indeed, the pendulum might yet swing back such that the intelligence contacts developed to fight terrorists are turned around, and used to support them against a greater geopolitical foe.

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