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China plans to convert Gwadar Port into military base, says US expert

The Gwadar port touted as a game changer for Pakistan, is yet to pick up (Photo: IANS)

China plans to make the Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan province into a military base, says Professor Matthew McCartney of the Washington-based Charter Cities Institute.

In an interview to the Netherlands-based think tank, European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), McCartney said that the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) is not the "economic game-changer" that is being made out by the Pakistani establishment. He says that the CPEC will not substantially change Pakistan's growth, investment and employment rates.

McCartney, in his interview to Junaid Qureshi, Director EFSAS, said that in the future China will “seek to use the port in Gwadar as a military base to ensure the steady influx of foreign resources, but China is a very pragmatic country and would be careful of any premature militarization of the port as that would result in widespread antagonization."

The development economics scholar, who has recently published his book, The Dragon from the Mountains: The CPEC from Kashgar to Gwadar, says that though Pakistan will benefit from CPEC, it will nevertheless need additional foreign investment to spur growth.

The CPEC is a giant corridor under China's flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which seeks to link Kashgar in Xinjiang province with Gwadar in Pakistan's Balochistan province. The $62 billion project envisages the construction of roads, railways, power projects, industrial zones and other large infrastructure projects to speed up Pakistan's socio-economic development and China's integration with world markets.

The project also envisages an oil pipeline network with a view to safeguarding China's energy security by opening up alternate and faster routes between China and the Arab countries.

Currently, most CPEC projects have been stopped by China owing to non-payment of dues by Pakistan and fatal attacks on Chinese nationals working on the projects.

The CPEC has become controversial in Balochistan as the local community feels alienated due to the vast project. Many Baloch nationalist organisations have mounted attacks on CPEC projects as well as Chinese nationals.

Late last year Balochistan witnessed a mass movement against the inconvenience people faced due to Chinese projects in Gwadar. The widespread agitation in Gwadar port city attracted women and children besides the fishermen whose livelihoods have been affected by the construction of the port.

Among the many demands raised by the people, they also seek jobs in CPEC projects as well as a higher share in mineral resources.