Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took a bold step to select China for his first official visit after assuming the charge, so, being more than an official visit, it was a message to the globe that even at this moment when Pakistan is facing challenges of economic breakdown, energy crisis and the feeble law and order along with extremism, the Islamic Republic is not alone in the world, said an expert during a workshop held here on Sunday.

“Moreover, Pakistan has a neighbour which gives red carpet treatment to the former,” said Saima Ghazanfar, an international relations analyst from National Defence University Islamabad, addressing a “Hazara Boy Scouts Training Workshop” in Changa Manga Forest Resort.

She said, “China needs us. Not surprisingly, India doesn’t want to see success of Pakistan and China’s all-weather friendship. We have to do this for us for the future of Pakistan. We have to complete the Gwadar Port as it can be an economic game changer. In the wake of connectivity, Pakistan can play a pivotal role in the development of regional economic integration process, and cooperation between China and central, southern and western Asian countries.”

She said that the two significant projects aimed to enhance bilateral economic ties and cooperation were upgradation and realignment of the Karakoram Highway and commencement of cross-border Fiber Optic Cable project to improve Pakistan’s reach to international communication network.

“The long term plan to build road and rail links will strengthen Gwadar Port which has become a focus of regional and extra-regional powers. Among regional powers, the stakes of our neighbours are high in functioning of the Port. Our one neighbour wants it, and other has reservations over it. China needs Gwadar as corridor to channel its sprouting oil imports. China is the fifth largest oil producer. Notwithstanding, she is the largest consumer and importer of the global oil apart from the US, consumes 12pc of world’s total oil, imports oil worth $ 85 billion. She is expected to surpass the US as the world’s largest crude importer during the next year. Its dependence on external oil supply is envisaged to reach approximately 60 percent of the total demand. China is the largest importer of Middle East oil and acquires 60pc of its oil supplied from the region in 2011,” she said.

In this context, she added, Gwadar Port has strategic position due to its contiguity to the Straits of Hormouz and cynosure of regional powers of South Asia. Nearly, the straits of Malacca and Hormuz account for shipping of 77 percent of the world’s crude, as 33 mbd out of 43 mbd of oil is channelled through the straits. Indeed, the straits are secured by the US at the cost of around $13 billion to $143 billion per year, she noted.

She disclosed, “It is expected approximately 80pc of the Chinese oil supply will pass through Straits of Malacca in the prospect. Simultaneously, Straits is vulnerable to piracy and precarious geopolitical repercussions. Chinese oil through Straits of Malacca reaches Shanghai or Chinese east coast. Furthermore, China has to bear the hassle to transport its oil via land to west of China that entails 10,000 kilometres of distance. Amid at, mitigating its dependence on the Strait of Malacca, Beijing has already invested significantly on construction of oil gas pipelines through Myanmar. Shipping from Gwadar Port evades narrow passage of Straits of Malacca. Nonetheless, Gwadar Port can play significant role to transit the Middle Eastern oil supplies to western China through trans - Himalayan pipeline, and the port will facilitate Beijing’s future oil and gas import.”

Indeed, she added, an alternative pipeline from Gwadar to Chinese western and central provinces through Karakoram would serve the best purpose in favour of China. The use of Gwadar Port and Karakoram Highway is much safer, cheaper and shorter route. China  railway and road networks from Gwadar  links China to landlocked Central Asian States, shipping from Gwadar will connect Middle East to Xinjiang will reduce 12,000 miles distance, quarter off the fees and decreasing one-month off the travelling time. Moreover, it would cut 6,400 km distance of Chinese goods to reach Gulf of Eden. A smooth access to Middle East, African and EU markets for Chinese exports, she noted.

“India foresees the physical presence of China in Gwadar as maritime encirclement of India. Therefore, India has covet plans to bulwark against Gwadar by strategic encirclement of Pakistan, in the form of upgradation of Iranian port of  Chabahar on Persian Gulf contiguous to Tehran border in Pakistan, and construction of the New Silk Road,” she said. “In June 2013, during visit to Iran, India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid expressed Indian interest to upgrade the Chabahar port and intended  to extend financial assistance worth $100 million irrespective of the US pressure. In the same vein, China has shown interest to upgrade the Iranian port and offered approximately credit line of 60 million euros for the development of the Chabahar port, which India apprehends may muscle out India from the project. The significant aspect of the so-called proposed ‘New Silk Road’ would be Astana-to-Amritsar highway via Pakistani terrain, to support our neighbor India to easy access in Afghanistan and landlocked Central Asian states,”

She maintained, “Gwadar port would offer Pakistan huge amount of revenues, and support faltering economy.  For the conduit of each one million barrels oil daily through Gwadar, Pakistan could possibly earn one billion dollars annually. Moreover, Pakistan should try to halt India’s ‘New Silk Road’ project. We must encourage the transit route of the The ‘New Silk Road’ from Kashgar to Gwadar, instead of from Astana to Amritsar to save Pakistan’s national interest which lies in economic prosperity.”