The chips seem to be falling in line for the Pakistan China Economic Corridor (PCEC). Construction is steaming forward in the northern mountains, the unrest around Gwadar is being steadily quelled and the port itself is taking shape. The final piece of the puzzle, the sea around the port, and the attendant sea lanes have been declared free from piracy by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The Foreign Office and the Pakistan Navy – both of whom have worked hard to reverse the negative certification awarded to Pakistan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2010 – should be commended for their action; especially since they come at such a crucial time.

The EEZ or the extended maritime border of Pakistan, consisting of 290,000 square kilometers of seabed extending 350 nautical miles southwards from the coast falls within the range of operation of the pirates operating of the Somali and Yemeni coast. The risk made Pakistani shipping lanes unattractive to large-scale shippers, and many preferred to bypass its ports. Those who risked it had to pay extra insurance and security charges – a policy which came in effect in 2010. If Pakistan plans to build Gwadar up as an economically viable deep-sea port which acts as the outlet for Chinese and Pakistani products then these inconveniences had to be removed, especially with bustling ports like Dubai not far off. Now that Pakistan has cleared its EEZ from CGPCS’s list, it must make sure that it stays that way.

Pakistan Navy’s patrol missions around the coast and participation in counter piracy missions in the Arabian Sea and Horn of Africa swayed the group’s judgment. As such these operations must continue to guarantee a safe space. Perhaps the Navy should consider requisitioning ships and equipment that help counter piracy, rather than purchasing vessels designed to counter other navies – such as the mooted purchase of Chinese submarines.