Finally, the day came when the trade operations at the Gwadar Deep Sea Port began. If one takes into account the huge trade openings this port is going to offer to Pakistan and, of course, the connected world, the impression about this port being a “Game Changer” would not be surprising as it would be a tie-rod between China, Pakistan and Middle East, Central Asian states as well as the world at large.

Technical reports done on the port site suggest that Gwadar is a major gift Pakistan from nature. Its ground position is naturally developed having the capacity (after fully equipped) to cope with all future shipping and trade requirements. The Gwadar port is the focal part of the over 50 billion multi-sector development projects under the banner of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a new height of decades old and time-tested friend of China. If Gwadar is developed as per plans between the Chinese and Pakistan governments, it will be one of the most booming port cities of Asia.

The Gwadar Port, which is about 120 kilometres to east of Iran, 460 kilometres by sea and 630 kilometres by road to Karachi and 970 kilometres to Quetta, has become the marine outfall of CPEC due to its ideal geographical conditions that offer various possibilities for its future development. Besides, CPEC is the link between Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century’s Maritime Silk Road thereby making Gwadar Port the important point to connect Silk Road with Maritime Silk Road.

The port bears the potential not only to bring economic turnaround not only for Pakistan but also to benefit all 80 states directly or indirectly connected with the China’s “One Belt, One Road initiative”. The Chinese leadership planned this initiative with the philosophy of promoting peace, cooperation and a new concept of modern diplomacy based on shared goals of prosperity and a project to eliminate poverty, unemployment and under-development.

Gwadar port is all set to have more trade volume capacity than that of Karachi and Port Qasim combined. Last month Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the regular trade activities from the port with a ship taking around 250 containers from the port.

It seems that the strategic position of Pakistan, which has been a curse from a historical perspective, is finally transforming into a promising treasure holding immense rewards for the nation. As the future plans attached with the Gwadar port are concerned, the city of Gwadar would be having an international airport and power plant for this port city.

According to initial estimates, Gwadar port will develop multi-layer operational mechanisms to accommodate high class ships carrying upto 18,000 containers, transport 500 million cubic feet liquefied gas to Nawabshah through 711-kilometer long pipeline which would be part of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

M/s Arthur D. Little, who has designed the Gwadar Port Master Plan (GPMP) and set 2005-2020 as short-term, and 2021 -2055 as long-term development planning, expects freight sources from urban development, industrialisation process, operation of the port, including petrochemical products and those relevant to heavy industry and manufacturing. The short-term forecast for Gwadar Port throughput is 42-65 million tons, with liquid bulk and containers as the main contributors while the long-term forecast for Gwadar Port is 321-345 million tons.

Main projects under the expansion plan would be Multipurpose Terminal Expansion to the east, Container Terminal, Liquid Bulk Terminal, Clean Dry Bulk Terminal, LNG Terminal, Petroleum /Petrochemical Terminal, Dry Bulk Terminal and Breakwater.

In a wider perspective, the Gwadar port is the culmination of the trail of projects in various sectors especially electricity generation, construction, information technology, renewable energy, roads networks, rail links, infrastructure, shipping, warehouses, management, etc. On the other hand, the port would be front door to the outer world from China and Pakistan’s perspective. According to the agreements signed under the CPEC initiative, the Chinese government has offered Pakistan a total of 27,000 Megawatts of additional energy that would go a long way in not only overcoming the power shortfall in the country but also reducing the electricity cost.

Chinese firm, Guangdong Logistics Industry Association, has shown interest in opening a large exhibition centre in the Gwadar Port where more than 50,000 Chinese products and brands can be displayed. Similarly, Chinese investors from southeastern provinces have also showed interest establish “Maritime Silk Route” between Guangdong and Gwadar via sea.

The tail of development does not end here as the future development projects are still in the long queue. Three leading industries including heavy industries such as steel making, manufacturing industry and petrochemical industry have also been lined up for the region. In short, the whole region is set to see the economic turnaround with Pakistan getting the direct huge benefits of this whole project.

This would be the first time where a country (China) deliberately and unequivocally has given a direct incentive for growth to the manufacturing and production sectors in another country. This is just one of the features that are coming to light with the development of Gwadar.

At this stage when the country is set to see the dawn of sustainable progress, which is the desperate need of its people, politicising the CPEC issue by certain political forces in the country is highly regrettable. Those raising criticism over the CPEC route or claim that their province is being ignored in development projects related to this route must understand that their uncalled for hue and cry is no service to the country and its people. Parliament is the better platform to raise such issues and the government has repeatedly invited these political groups particularly Pakistan Tehree-i-Insaaf to the parliament and discuss these issues. But unfortunately they won’t do it.

Now the time has come to display political integration in the country and focus on better future of the country. We all must realise that the development and progress Pakistan is going to achieve in near future through CPEC is not acceptable to those states who are hostile to Pakistan. Gwadar should be the ultimate focus for the people and government of Pakistan as there is no other option left to materialise the dream of sustainable prosperity.