March 20, 2007


Pakistan port opens new possibilities (Syed Fazl-e-Haider , 3/22/07, Asia Times)

Gwadar is on the southwest coast of Pakistan, close to the Strait of Hormuz that links the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Its location marks the confluence of three increasingly important regions - the oil-rich Middle East, heavily populated South Asia, and resource-rich Central Asia. The seaport will serve as an economic and trade transit point for Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

It is expected that the port will not only promote trade with Persian Gulf states, but will also facilitate the transshipment of containerized cargo, unlock the development potential of the hinterland, and emerge as a regional hub for major trade and commercial activities. It is also expected that Gwadar, 70 kilometers east of the Iranian border and in close proximity to Gulf shipping lanes, will handle transshipment traffic for the Gulf and ports on the Arabian Peninsula.

Some analysts see an operational Gwadar port as China's first foothold in the oil-rich Middle East, as well as providing road and rail links to the economic powerhouse. Beijing wants Gwadar to be the gateway port for its western region, as its eastern seaboard is 3,500km from Kashgar, the main city in the far west of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, whereas the distance from Kashgar to Gwadar is only 1,500km. This makes it feasible and cost-effective for China's interior regions to carry out trade through this port. That is why China expressed interest in helping Pakistan to develop Gwadar into a full-fledged deepwater commercial port, capable of handling cargo ships of up to 50,000 tons or more.

Energy-hungry China is eyeing Central Asia's oil and gas reserves and is increasingly looking to Pakistan for oil and gas supplies. Beijing plans to run at least five oil and gas pipelines to Gwadar from the Central Asian republics and wants to turn the facility into a transit terminal for Iranian and African crude-oil imports.

Gwadar is expected to play a key role in China's energy security, as its strategic location gives it greater scope as a free oil port in the region, and it will be the endpoint of all gas pipelines from Central Asian states, Iran and Qatar.

The most obvious story here is the sort of economic opportunity that awaits the region if it can get itself straightened out, but note too that, where Realists and others insist that we must negotiate with folks like the Chinese and the regime of the Middle East in order to get them to help with development, the reality is that they have no choice but to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2007 11:59 PM

So the Trans-Afgahn pipeline was actually a Chinesse project?

Well, that explains everything.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 21, 2007 11:32 AM