Iran, China and the Gwadar Port
The Gwadar Port in Balochistan (one of Pakistan’s tribal regions) has been headline news in Pakistan, India and China this month. Interesting that I can’t find one mention of it in the western media – not even in on-line publications. Since many Pakistani commentators trace the US shift in military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan to the completion of the Chinese-built deep water port in 2005. I myself never heard of the Gwadar Port until I came across an obscure Pakistani blog by Khalid Baig. I was so concerned about its content that I assisted his translator in polishing the English and republished it on OpEdNews. See http://www.opednews.com/populum/print_friendly.php?p=Talibanization-The-Whole-by-Khalid-Baig-100901-169.html
In fact the only US article I can find about the Gwadar Port is a May, 10 2010 Forbes article (see http://www.forbes.com/global/2010/0510/companies-pakistan-oil-gas-balochistan-china-pak-corridor.html). It explains how the province of Balochistan is well endowed with oil, gas, copper, zinc, gold, coal and a deepwater port at Gwadar the Chinese built for Pakistan in 2005. And how Balochistan also happens to be China’s link to its sizeable investments in Iranian gas and oil.
China’s stated goal in building the deep water port was to capture the transit trade (via the old ‘silk road’) of fossil fuels and minerals of landlocked countries like Afghanistan, as well as encouraging the transhipment of resources bound for other countries reliant on central Asian resources. China has invested well over $15 billion in Balochistan projects, including an oil refinery and zinc and copper mines, in addition to the Gwadar Port and its connecting highways.
Iran and China: Our Two Favorite Countries
The Forbes article doesn’t mention that Balochistan will also be a connecting hub for the Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline, which is looked to take the place of the planned Turmanistan-Afghanisan-Pakistan-India pipeline (the one the US supported). India recently pulled out of that one because the Afghan Taliblan kept blowing up the bridges and other critical infrastructure of the Afghan section. See http://www.defenceforum.in/forum/pakistan-defence-affairs/14468.htm
Forbes also doesn’t mention that Iran definitely favors shipping oil and gas via Gwadar rather than the current route through the Strait of Malacaa, where oil tankers are subject to Somali pirates and US naval exercises. Nor that many Asian commentators expect Gwadar to outstrip Dubai as a trade and commercial center, given the immense demand for resources generated by China’s burgeoning middle class.
The US War on Pakistan: the Real Reasons
Nor, of course, the increasing belief by many Pakistani commentators that Gwardar is the real reason for American’s current “proxy war” in Balochistan and the other Pakistani tribal areas. Quetta, north of Gwadar, happens to be a major target of the CIA and Pentagon military operations because of the Taliban leaders who are allegedly hiding out there. Of course it isn’t really clear whether these are “good” Taliban (the ones Hamid Karzai has invited to participate in government – see Sept 12 blog http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/09/12/afghanistan-is-it-all-smoke-and-mirrors/) or the other kind.
Interesting, though, the sightings of US marines and Blackwater (Xe) mercenaries (read paid assassins) in Gwadar, which is more than 500 miles south of Quetta. See http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2010/02/07/grave-concerns-over-presence-blackwater-pakistan. Khalid Baig and others express concern that Blackwater and RAW (Indian intelligence) agents are stirring up the Balochistan separatist movement by recruiting jobless Balochistan youth and paying them to commit random terrorist acts – such as the rocket that landed in the Gwadar Port a week ago.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
It is still unclear whether the US military seeks to take over and occupy Pakistan’s tribal areas; whether they want to support Balochistan in separating from Pakistan to form an independent US friendly independent oil, gas and mineral rich independent state (like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Eastern Europe); or if they will be content with their continuing campaign of terrorist activity and economic sabotage. There is no question that the military activity is disrupting the development and operation of the port.
It seems incredibly cynical and hypocritical for the US to carry on this ruthless economic sabotage against Pakistan – especially with the recent floods that have virtually destroyed the country’s economy – and then to demand, via the World Bank, that Pakistan repay $50 billion in foreign debt.