The Gwadar deep seaport that was built by China at a cost $250 million, 75 percent of which was paid by China itself, has now finally been handed over to one of its firms, Chinese Overseas Port Holdings, for management purposes after PSA International of Singapore expressed its inability to do the job. For Pakistan, the port holds the prospects of becoming a key project leading to the road to prosperity in view of its potential to serve as trade and energy corridor considering the vast hinterland of Central Asia itching for development and export of the rich energy reserves it holds underground and importing its needs. For Central Asia as well as Beijing, it would provide arguably the shortest import-export route. It would slash thousands of kilometres of distance in ferrying China’s burgeoning oil needs and prove to be a great boon for its economy. Apart from an all round acceleration of industrial and commercial activity in Pakistan as a result of the development of this seaport, it would help in the exploitation and export of, for instance, the plentiful riches of Balochistan. Gwadar would greatly relieve the congestion that one now witnesses at Karachi and could get worsened with the growth in the country’s population.

Thus, the countries, which are feeling rather squeamish about the Chinese involvement in this strategic port, had better appreciate that it is the economic interest of both Islamabad and Beijing that is driving them to join hands in this venture. They should have no worry about this bilateral arrangement, as Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Liu Jian explained while talking to Daily Nawa-i-Waqt at Islamabad on Sunday. He categorically rejected the notion that Gwadar could be used by his country for military purposes, terming it an absolutely baseless hypothesis. Ambassador Liu’s remarks sound logical; for looking back at its strides for economic development over the years, China has meticulously avoided showing its military muscle. It has been a peaceful march towards turning its sluggish economy into a veritable workhorse producing far cheaper goods of comparable quality than the Western manufacturing concerns. It is noteworthy that both India and the US have shown reservations about Beijing’s easy access to the Arabian Sea close to the Strait of Hormuz carrying strategic dimensions. But they could be countered with a poser that it is, in fact, they which have sharply altered the balance of power in the region by entering into the so-called peaceful nuclear deal; they now have the least justification for complaining.

The Chinese are at present working on well over 100 projects in Pakistan, all geared to its economic development. Yes, it has given help in developing its defences, but neither did the help carry any strings, nor has Pakistan any aggressive intentions against any country. All concerns on that count must come to end.