The following article has been published in Daily Nation, dated 18th May 2015
(E-Paper (Print Edition): http://nation.com.pk/E-Paper/lahore/2015-05-18/page-9)
China Pak Economic Corridor: way forward (Part I of II)
By: Omer Zaheer Meer
The biggest gift of nature to Pakistan besides all kinds of terrains and weather as well as hardworking young manpower is its strategic location. In this context the strategic significance of Gwadar adds to this dimension of Pakistan’s international importance. Gwadar is a strategically located area on the shores of the Arabian Sea just outside the Strait of Hormuz. It is situated near key shipping routes of global oil transportation with the surrounding areas having two-thirds of global oil reserves. Furthermore it is the closest warm-water port to landlocked Central Asian region and Afghanistan, both rich in untapped natural resources and economically undeveloped with huge potential. As if that was not enough, from a military standpoint, Gwadar is located at the eastern bay of the key passing which if blocked by a strong naval force, can cut off the oil supplies to any adversary with dire repercussions as any military expert will testify.
Before moving ahead on the core matter of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEC), let us briefly visit the history of Gwadar. Pakistan identified Gwadar as a site for its future port in 1954 when it was still under the rule of Oman. Government of Pakistan successfully negotiated with the Sultanate of Oman and purchased the enclave in the fall of 1958, ending a 200 year Omani rule of the small undeveloped fishing town. It wasn’t until 1977 that Gwadar was made a part of Balochistan by the Federal Government of Pakistan. Currently it has a population of approximately 85,000 people as per most studies.
Now moving onto CPEC, it is a mega project worth $ 45.6 billion, to connect Gwadar port with Northwestern China (Xinjiang) via Khunjrab (the last connecting point on the Pakistani side) along with development and uplift of transportation, energy and technical infrastructure in Pakistan. A network of road and rail links besides energy pipelines are envisaged.
There are three land routes planned to link Gwadar to Xinjiang in addition to a long-term “route adjustment link”. The three main routes are outlined below:
- The “original”, shortest and most popularized route passes through Quetta, Zhob, D.I.Khan and Peshawar. It is termed as the “western route” and is just over 2400 km long.
- The second route passes through Ratodero, Sukkuar and the Indus Highway.
- The third route which has stirred up the controversy actually passes through Sukkur and Karachi in Sindh and then via Lahore and Peshawar to connect with Khunjrab. This is termed as the “eastern route”.
All the routes are envisioned to be interconnected with industrial and commercial zones along the routes at key sites.
- 320-kilometre-long Sukkur-Multan motorway
- 120-kilometre-long Thakot to Hawalian road
- upgradation of Karakoram Highway
- 19-kilometre-long Gwadar port East Bay Expressway Project
- development of Gwadar itself
- building Gwadar airport
- upgradation of Karachi – Peshawar “Main (Railway) Line”
- commission of armed division (Economic Corridor Support Force) for security of CPEC
- Havelian Dry Port
- Orange Line Metro (Lahore)
- Port Qasim 2x660MW Coal-fired Power Plant
- 720MW Karot Hydropower Project
- Zonergy 9×100 MW solar project (Quaid e Azam Solar Park) in Punjab
- Jhimpir wind Power project
- Thar Block II 2x330MW Coal Fired Power project
- Hubco Coal-fired Power Plant Project
- Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline Project
- China-Pakistan joint cotton bio-tech laboratory
- Cross-border fibre optic data communication system project, a digital terrestrial multimedia broadcast pilot project at Murree
- Development of Private Hydro Power Projects, e.t.c.
As can be seen from the above non-exhaustive list, a lot of the projects are related to developing energy and technical infrastructure in Pakistan in addition to the transportation infrastructure projects. Infact more than 70% of the $ 45.6 billion is expected to be spent on these projects. However it is the transportation infrastructure that caught most attention due to its long term strategic significance, revenue generation and potential to be the game changer for the region.
to be continued next Monday ……
The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, CFA Charterholder, experienced fellow Chartered Certified Accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or firstname.lastname@example.org