In the globalised world of today, seaborne trade activities are now more pivotal to the economic welfare of countries than ever before. Pakistan, as it turns out, has one such opportunity at hand which can benefit the country in terms of seaborne trade and also give it an edge in gaining control over vast sea routes in the capacity of an emerging regional trade and naval power.
The Gwadar port in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, with its geostrategic and geopolitical importance, is set to enhance regional connectivity and become the hub of international business activities in the foreseeable future. In fact, many commentators believe that the newly developed deep-sea Gwadar port has the right kind of potential to replace Dubai port’s influence in the future, only if things go per plans.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project of which Gwadar is an essential part will weave together most of Asia in to a single seamless trade zone. This in turn will enhance trade activities between different Asian and Middle Eastern countries and earn precious capital for Pakistan.
The main reasons why most experts compare Gwadar and Dubai ports is because both these sea trade centres are located at the cross junction of international shipping and oil trade routes. Both these ports also provide direct access to the Indian Ocean where 70 percent of the world’s petroleum trade takes place. And Gwadar is the nearest stop for sea traffic than the Iranian Chabahar port or Dubai ports.
Some more advantages of Gwadar
Going by expert views, Gwadar port is more likely to support and benefit all the Gulf countries, especially Dubai, rather than destroying their economic welfare as is believed in some circles. China has been very aggressive in its diplomatic efforts in the recent past to reach out to the Arab countries for economic ties. Consider this for a moment: the CPEC route will make it easier for Chinese products to reach Gulf countries by shortening the transit distance from 12,000 km to 3,000 km. In such a scenario Pakistan will have a win-win situation on its hands as it will act as the essential linkage between regional trade activities and improve its economic prospects.
For the most part Gwadar port will complement the Dubai ports and Iran’s Chabahar port rather than challenging their existence. In order to take Gwadar to the level of Dubai ports, the Pakistani government will have to move ahead quickly to develop the area into a mega city. It can take decades to reach that position though. Apart from this, the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) developed by the Chinese Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) is a golden opportunity for Pakistan to strengthen its trade prospects with the Middle East and the Central Asian republics.
Gwadar in the context of Sino-Pak regional relations
During the last decade, China has been strengthening its ties with Asian countries going as far as the Middle East. And Pakistan is the central point of the Chinese strategy to link the regional countries in a strong web of trade and commerce. In fact the South Asian country is a frontline state in the Chinese policy of ensuring connectivity in the entire region.
Apart from having cordial business ties with Pakistan, China is also the main business partner of many Gulf countries, including the UAE. Currently, Sino-UAE bilateral trade stands at around $54.8 billion. It is believed that CPEC will increase this amount twofold.
Still a long way to go
Realistically speaking, the Dubai ports enjoy more benefits at present than Gwadar port. For one, Dubai is a politically stable region when compared to Pakistan. The emirate has an effective and competent administrative wing, the security arrangements in Dubai are almost foolproof and the law and order situation in the emirate is far better than the unpredictable security situation prevalent in Pakistan. Above all, the emirate of Dubai remains untouched by disruptive internal and external political forces, which is not the case with Pakistan.
Future real estate Potential of Gwadar
One main aspect of why Gwadar is held in such high esteem by experts is due to its vast potential in terms of real estate development. The area is like a blank canvas which is gradually being filled by local and international real estate developers by initiating residential and commercial projects.
According to the database of Pakistan’s leading property portal Zameen.com, featured projects in Gwadar are some of the biggest in this country. Some important real estate projects mentioned in the list include Burj al-Gwadar, Golden Palms Gwadar, Broadway Residencia and Sea View Heights.
Long-term importance of Gwadar
Whether Gwadar will replace Dubai as the hotbed of international trade activities or not is a matter of discussion for the future when construction activities take off in the southern Pakistani port city. But for now the importance of Gwadar cannot be downplayed since the port can reach the status of a central gate to the Strait of Hurmoz. Gwadar will also provide better trade routes to the landlocked Caspian region. Gwadar port will also allow Pakistan to exercise more control of its seaways and trade routes. All in all, Gwadar has the potential to become the city of the future if the Pakistani government commits itself to this project of gigantic proportion and limitless opportunities. Who knows one day it might even surpass Dubai in terms of enterprising global appeal.