Gwadar- yesterdayâ€™s small fishing village has rapidly emerged as an international Deep Seaport City today. It is a good move by the government to declare Gwadar a Duty Free Port and free economic zone, keeping in view the significance of the region. This has not only enhanced its commercial worth manifold, but has also accelerated the pace of development to an incredible extent. By virtue of its finest location, development projects, recreational programs and governmentâ€™s special attention, it will soon turn into a city that can be comparable with cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. Gwadar, the western port city of Pakistan, has already got the attention of economic planners. It has an immense strategic lure. It lies near the Straits of Hormuz, gateway to the Gulf through which 40 percent of the worldâ€™s oil passes. The port also has a great commercial attraction. It lies 1,250 miles from Xingjian, a landlocked western province and latecomer to Chinaâ€™s economic boom.
Pakistan identified Gwadar as a port site in 1964. However, it was only in 2001 that significant steps were taken toward making this proposal a reality, when China agreed to participate in the construction and development of the deep seaport. The development of Gwadar could bring economic gains in a backward Balochistan. The infrastructural development of the province could make it an attractive investment opportunity. Meanwhile, land prices around Gwadar are said to be shooting up.
Economic benefits of Gwadar port, besides the geo-strategic importance are: capitalizing the opportunities for trade with landlocked Central Asian states and Afghanistan, promotion of trade and transport with Gulf States, trans-shipment, essentially of containerized cargo, unlocking the development potential of the hinterland, diversion of influx of human resources from upcountry to Gwadar, socio-economic uplift of the province of Balochistan, establishment of shipping-related industries, oil storage, refinery and petro-chemicals, export processing industrial zones and many more avenues.
Gwadar could emerge as a key shipping point, bringing Pakistan a much-needed income, and when combined with the surrounding areas could become a trade hub, once road and rail links connect it to the rest of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. A road from Gwadar to Saindak, said to be the shortest route between Central Asia and the sea, is under construction. Gwadar would provide landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics with access to the sea. Goods, oil and gas reserves from these countries could be shipped to global markets through Gwadar port. Pakistanâ€™s business community seems to be in favor of Gwadar port being designated a free trade zone and an export-processing zone.
All these mega projects in Balochistan, especially in Gwadar, worth billions of dollars carry national and international dimensions. The completion of these projects will not only usher in an era of prosperity in Balochistan, but it will also change the outlook of the region.
Gwadar is Pakistanâ€™s largest infrastructural project since independence. After the completion of the first phase of Gwadar port, billions of dollars have been invested in Gwadar and in the next one or two years the investment can cross the figure of trillions. China is a major investor in Gwadar, and has spent $248 million in the first phase of Gwadar port. The total cost of projects may go up to $2.2 billion. China also plans to invest $12 billion in multiple projects in Pakistan, including the countryâ€™s largest oil refinery at Gwadar, the Oriental Morning Post reported. The Gwadar oil refinery, which is being planned and designed, is expected to reach a daily oil output of 60,000 barrels when it goes into production. China is also planning to foster its participation in Pakistanâ€™s long-term economic development by investing $500 million in a joint venture investment company. Beijing is also investing billions after billions of dollars in western China, a grand five-year plan to develop it, and Gwadar is a necessary part of that five-year plan.
Pakistan has invested more than $2 billion to upgrade Gwadar and in the completion of related development programmes in the last two years. The provincial Government of Balochistan itself is spending Rs 4.5 billion in Gwadar. Pakistan is an impoverished and underdeveloped country. Its economic record was not good in the past. After coming into power, President General Pervez Musharraf focused on the economic sector. There is no doubt that in the last three years, Pakistanâ€™s economic growth is moving quickly towards a record-breaking achievement in the countryâ€™s history. Pakistan has attracted a sum of $1.6 billion as foreign investment during the first seven months of this fiscal year, starting last July. It is expected to attract $1.4 billion more in the rest of the fiscal year. Pakistan also hopes to achieve $18 billion exports this year. All these signs show the governmentâ€™s efforts to make Pakistan economically strong. And the mega projects that the government has started in Balochistan, including Gwadar port, are going to generate an estimated $60 billion every year over the span of time and provide a firm basis for the socio-economic uplift of the province. As soon as the Gwadar port goes operational, a rapid socio-economic uplift of Balochistan will be witnessed and would change the living standards of people dwelling in the backward areas of Balochistan.
The government, through Gwadar, would end an era of depreciation for the Baloch people, and encourage them to work on the road of progress and prosperity to contribute in nation building. Dreams of progress are materialising and clouds of desperation are shattering. Thus, a better future of Balochistan is ahead in the form of a fully-developed Gwadar port.