Authors: Vahid Pourtajrishi & Elaheh Shirvani
Gwadar port is located in the province of Baluchistan in Pakistan and on the coast of Arabian Sea. The port’s plan was first established in 1954 when it was owned by the Oman’s kingdom. The distance between Gwadar and Karachi, the main commercial city of Pakistan, is 533 km and the distance to Iran’s border is 120 km. After 200 years of Oman’s Kingdom governance over Gwadar Port, by US mediation in the negotiations between Pakistan and Oman, finally this port was sold to Islamabad on 8th Dec. 1958 at the price of 3 million dollars.
The initiary plans for the development of Gwadar was first introduced in 1992 but due to lack of resources on one hand and international sanctions against Islamabad for examining atomic bomb on the other, the plan did not become operational. Finally by the agreements that were reached between Pakistan and China and China’s investment in this project, the first phase of the development plan started to be studied and constructed in 2002. In 2007 the construction of the first phase was completed and on 15th March 2008 Gwadar Port was launched by the entrance of a 70000 ton cargo. (www.psagwadar.com.pk)
The new plans for developing Gwadar were first proposed by the Prime Minister Parviz Mosharaf in 2007 (New York Times, Jan 2013).
Gwadar Port’s Construction Trends:
In fact construction of Gwadar is divided into two separate phases which are as follows:
Phase I (2002-2006)
As it was mentioned earlier, the first phase of this project was first introduced in 2002 and was completed in 2006 by the cost of 248 million dollars. The measures which were taken in the first phase are as follows (the official website of Gwadar Port www.gwadarport.gov.pk):
• Docks: construction of 3 multi-purpose docks with the capacity of commercial ships of 30000 tons
• Length of dock: 6.2 m
• Dimensions of the port’s entrance channel: 4.5 km length, 12.5 m depth
• Turn-round tank: 450 m
• Repair dock: a dock with the length of 100 m
• The required infrastructure equipment in the port including staff boat, hauler, researching ships and etc.
But as we are aware, development of Gwadar Port goes back to the financial agreement which was signed between china and Pakistan (CPEC) in 2015. At the time of signing the contract, China guaranteed to invest 1.62 billion dollars for the construction and development of this port based on BOT contract (China Daily News Paper, July 2016). The goal of this project was connecting Pakistan to western China.
The two countries plans for development and construction of phase II are:
• Construction of 2 container docks along 3.2 km of Gwadar coast
• Construction of 1 bulk cargo terminal
• Construction of 1 grain special terminal
• Construction of 1 Ro-Ro terminal
• Construction of 2 oil terminals
• Port’s entrance channel: the depth of channel will be increased to 14.5 m
• Construction of a four-lane highway to connect Gwadar Port to Makran Coastal Hwy
• Construction of a new airport
• Construction of a gas terminal with a capacity of storing 500 million cube meters daily (for storage of the transported gas from Iran based on peace pipeline contract)
• Construction of special economic zone with the area of 2292 hectares
• Construction of water desalination center
• Construction of 360 MW power plant for electricity production with fossil fuel
Future plans estimated in phase II:
• Increasing port’s entrance channel to 20 m
• Constructing150 docks by the year 2045
• Increasing cargo arrival and departure capacity up to 400 million tons per year
But what draws the attention of each and every expert in the field of international transport is the reason behind Chinese investment in this new port and investigating the future of rival neighboring ports such as Chabahar Port in Iran.
1) China’s One belt-One road Policy:
As we know, one belt-one road Policy was introduced by China’s president Shi Jen Ping. The new Silk Road or one belt-one road plan is an investment plan in the infrastructure of more than 60 countries of the world and development of two commercial routes of “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “Maritime Silk Road” which were introduced by China in 2013. This plan plus China’s military power can lead to China’s hegemony in East Asia and turn this country into a super power (Monthly Review, Jan 2017). “Silk Road Economic Belt” links the traditional Silk Road to Europe through Central Asia, Russia and Middle East. “Maritime Silk Road” connects China to southeast of Asia and Africa via the sea. The reason behind introducing these two plans was that China’s economy including the development of the local economy infrastructure and exporting goods to the developing countries was not as effective as before. Furthermore, western economies have encountered recession and there was a decrease in returning of the local investment due to the industrial production surplus in China. Therefore the mail goal of the plans was to strengthen Chinese economy and turn the Chinese manufacturing companies into international companies which operate to develop the infrastructure in different countries under the brand “one belt-one road”. China has specifically designated 65 countries as the targets of infrastructure investments.
In order to develop goods and energy transport in Moscow highway to Kazan in Russia, Beijing is seeking investments to launch projects such as Kazakh Railway from Khorgas to Aktau Port on the bank of Caspian Sea, some pipelines from Turkmenistan to China, China-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan railway, Trans-Asia railway from China to Europe via Kazakhstan and Russia, Silk Road railway from China to Iran (via Kazakhstan) and China-Pakistan highway (Financial Times, 14th Sep, 2015).
2) One belt-one path, Chinese Version of US’s TPP
By the time that Donald Trump was elected as the president of US in 2017, most of Obama’s adventurous goals and ambitions regarding a liberal economy and international trade reached to an end. One of the international accords of US during Obama’s government was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Most of the opponents of this accord believe that accords such as TPP will do nothing for US except extensive costs.
In fact one belt-one rath is a substitute for Obama’s unsuccessful TPP which is proposed by Beijing this time.
3) Gwadar Port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is considered as one of Beijing’s solutions for achieving one belt-one road policy and confronting the difficulties of passing through Indian Ocean without India’s disturbance as the most important regional rival of China. Providing the requirements for one belt-one road project will be burdensome and costly. The initiary investment for CPE was estimated about 46 billion dollars by China but later this amount was increased to 54 billion dollars. As estimated by Pakistan, the worn-out transport network of this country results in wasting almost 3.5% of Pakistan’s GDP. As the framework of this project, new networks of transport will be built which will connect Gwadar and Karachi ports to northern Pakistan, Western China and Central Asia. Based on the statistics given by Chinese experts, modernizing the mentioned transport network will cost 11 billion dollars, make 2.3 million job opportunities between the years 2015-2030 and increase the country’s economic growth by 2-2.5% annually. Based on what was mentioned earlier, CPEC is considered as China’s main plan for achieving the required technical and economic infrastructures in Pakistan.
4) Chabahar Port
In fact Chabahar International Port is the most important project of Gwadar port which is considered as one of the main competitions between Iran and Pakistan. Chabahar port at a glance:
1. Entrance to Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean which consists of a sensitive and suitable geographical location
2. The only ocean port in Iran
3. Consists of more than 541 km maritime border
4. The least land distance to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. Transit of goods via this port is considered as the most economical port with the least transportation cost
Chabahar and International Transit of Goods
Chabahar port is the intersection of two important corridors; North-South and East-West corridor. In the recent measures taken by Pakistan’s government, Makran’s Coastal Highway was established in South of Pakistan which links Karachi port in Pakistan to Gwadar and then to Rimadan Border Market in Chabahar (Iran).
Chabaahr-Zahedan-Mashhad Railway Project, 1350 km
Chabaahr-Zahedan Railway is located in Sistan and Baluchestan province in Southeast of Iran. This railway connects Chabahar Port to the city of Zahedan and then Mashhad. Currently the speed limit is estimated to be 120 km/h for passenger trains and this number is 90 km/h for freight trains.
Based on the estimations, 300000 passengers and 1.3 million tons of freight will be carried by this railway in the first year of its operation and these numbers will be increased to 500000 passengers and 35 million tons of freight by the twentieth year.
Technical Specifications of the Project:
– Maximum gradient of the route: 15 in 1000
– Minimum radius within curve: 1000 meter
– Number of specific tunnels: 17
– Total length of tunnels: 11000 meter
– Number of tunnels: 20
– Number of stations: 5 main stations and 25 grade III stations
Based on the contract between Iran and India, New Delhi has undertaken to invest 500 million dollars for developing and launching Chabahar port based on BOT contract.
Lack of required rail infrastructure is the main difficulty of Chabahar port to transport the cargo to Afghanistan. Due to this reason the cargo needs to pass through Pakistan by road which decreases the competitiveness of Chabahar port since this will become a permanent challenge for the customers in long term. To transport freight from Chabahar to Herat in Afghanistan, 1784 km of rail is needed which is way less than Gwadaar-Karachi-Afghanistan route.
5) The Role of the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
Based on Chabahar’s project development plan, this port has been linked to the transit routes of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan Republic via rail and in fact Chabahar links to the North-South Corridor at Bafgh intersection.
– According to China’s strong support of the construction and development of Gwadar port, the future of Chabahar is completely dependent on its construction speed.
– On the other hand, Kabol and Afghanistan do not fulfill their duties to RAI. Afghanistan is the only country which benefits from both Chabahar and Gwadar projects since linking to these two ports can solve Afghanistan’s geo-economic problems for connecting to international waters.
– Attempting to rehabilitate Pakistan’s worn-out lines and linking it to Zahedan is considered important since in this way Afghanistan’s attempts to become the rail transit path between Pakistan, Central Asia and Turkey will remain unfruitful.
– Another treat for Gwadar port project in one road-one path framework is China and Pakistan’s attempt to connect to Europe via the Caspian Sea.
Based on UIC reports, there are a total of 7 routes for connecting China to Europe. Due to inappropriate consition of the infrastructure along the route and the need for development, the travelling time for China to Europe via Tehran cannot be estimated.
Hurry up Iran!
Based on what was mentioned before, what is obvious is that the time factor plays an important role in making Iran as the key to access Poland as the main Europe transit hub. Iran needs to act faster in launching and strengthening all the corridors passing through the territory of Iran. Iran needs to put India under pressure by emphasizing the threats made by India’s rivals, i.e. China and Pakistan, to complete the project in the shortest time possible.
Another measure proposed to Tehran for confronting with the negative impacts of Gwadar port on the rail transit through south of Iran is to launch ITI corridor which is a win-win project for China and Iran since by putting Islam Abad-Zahedan route into operation, at least some parts of China’s exported goods to Europe can be transported through Iran to Turkey instead of being transported via the insecure route of Afghanistan. ITI corridor is way less expensive than the corridor passing through Caspian Sea. This is an opportunity for Iran to attempt to activate ITI corridor before China launches Afghanistan’s route.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
US geopolitical interests offer Iran sanctions loophole amid mounting tension
The Indian-backed Iranian port of Chabahar has emerged as a major loophole in a tightening military and economic noose and ever harsher US sanctions that President Donald J. Trump, reluctant to be sucked into yet another war, sees as the best way to either force Tehran to its knees or achieve regime change.
Alice Wells, the State Department’s assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, said during a meeting with Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani that Chabahar had been exempted at Afghanistan’s request.
The State Department said earlier that the exemption was granted because it was related to “reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan, which includes the development and operation of Chabahar Port.”
US officials said privately that the exemption was also a nod to India that sees Chabahar as vital for the expansion of its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian republics.
They said it was moreover an anti-dote to the Chinese backed port of Gwadar just 70 kilometres down the Arabian Sea coast in the troubled neighbouring Pakistani province of Balochistan.
That may be a long shot, certainly as long as India like much of the rest of the world is restricted by the US sanctions in its economic and commercial dealings with Iran.
The exemption comes however as Chinese security concerns in Balochistan as well as Pakistan at large are mounting.
China’s massive US$45 billion plus Belt and Road-related infrastructure investment in Pakistan with Gwadar and Balochistan at its core has become a prime target for nationalist insurgents that has officials in Beijing worried. It has also reinforced long-standing doubts in some circles in Beijing about the viability of the project.
Dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, China sees the project, involving a network of roads, railways and pipelines that would link Gwadar to China’s troubled north-western province of Xinjiang as a key economic component of its brutal effort to Sincize the strategic region’s Turkic Muslim population.
“China, you came here (Balochistan) without our consent, supported our enemies, helped the Pakistani military in wiping our villages. But now it’s our time… Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) guarantees you that CPEC will fail miserably on the Baloch land. Balochistan will be a graveyard for your expansionist motives,” a commander of the BLA’s Majeed Brigade said in a video message released a week after militants stormed a hilltop, highly secured luxury hotel in Gwadar, killing five people.
The BLA claimed a month earlier responsibility for an attack on a convoy on a highway leading out of Gwadar in which 14 Pakistani military personnel died and an assault last year on the Chinese consulate in Karachi.
The attacks and threats have prompted Chinese sceptics of China’s massive investment in Pakistan to express their doubts more publicly.
“Gwadar wants to be in the shipping business, but it has failed to do so. Pakistan’s economy is not very good, and this port has become very wasteful … under these circumstances, including with the hotel attack, how can China conduct its business? The roads and traffic cannot even be maintained,” said Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming.
While many in Pakistan believe that the BLA enjoys Iranian support and Iranians are convinced that Pakistan enables shadowy Islamic militants who have claimed responsibility for a rare suicide bombing in December in Chabahar and attacks on Revolutionary Guards elsewhere in the Iranian province of Sistan and Balochistan, fact of the matter is that both countries are vulnerable to Baloch insurgents.
The situation on both sides of the Iranian-Pakistani border is complicated by suspicions that the violence also has links to the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and that the Baloch provinces of Pakistan and Iran could become a stage for a proxy war.
Amid reports that China has reached out to Baloch nationalist leaders in exile, Pakistani security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana cautioned that the exiles may no longer be in control.
“The new leadership of the Baloch insurgency largely hails from the educated middle class with urban backgrounds and is not hiding in Europe; therefore, it does not face the sort of constraints that exiled Baloch leaders do vis-à-vis Iran,” Mr. Rana said.
Mr. Rana noted that Iran’s influence in Pakistani Balochistan was visible in oil smuggled across the border, Iranian products in grocery shops and the supply of electricity to the coastal strip of Makran that includes Gwadar.
“For Pakistan, the security cost of CPEC is increasing which could frustrate the Chinese as well as foreign and local investors,” Mr. Rana warned.
For now, China confronts a more serious challenge in Gwadar, Balochistan as well as other parts of Pakistan that are struggling with un-related incidents of political violence compared to India and Chabahar.
That could change if the Saudi Iranian component of the low level Baloch insurgency spins out of control with the escalating stand-off between the United States and Iran.
Iran appears to have pinned its hopes that Chabahar will be shielded from the impact of regional tensions on the perceived US geopolitical need to protect India’s interest in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Said Pir Mohammad Mollazeh, an Iranian Afghanistan and Central Asia scholar: “US long-term geopolitical interests, due to the lack of relations with Iran, require India to maintain its position in the region and protect India as a partner in Central Asia… Chabahar port is considered to be a very important and strategic which is an opportunity for our country to enable Iran to reduce its sanctions by means of economic exchanges in Chabahar.”
Pointless Colonial Massacres and Post-Colonial Wars and Killings on the Indian Subcontinent
Two colonial mass killings from the twentieth century are always remembered: The Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre on April 23, 1930 in Peshawar (then India, now in Pakistan) was the result of peaceful demonstrations protesting the arrest of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who had called for a nonviolent movement of ‘patience and righteousness.’ Authorities nervous at the size of the crowds called in the military. The local Garhwal Rifles refused an order to fire. A special city disturbance column and four armored cars were sent for; they did not. The number of dead vary with the source ranging from 20 to 400. Whatever the figures, the incident legitimized the protest movement and creating a new Gandhi of the northwest in Ghaffar Khan.
Pakistan since independence has had insurgencies — in the Northwest where Peshawar is located,in Baluchistan (ongoing) and, the worst of all in its eastern half in 1971 that led to the birth of Bangladesh. Estimates of casualties range from 300,000 to 3 million.
This year is the centenary of the notorious Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in Amritsar. April 13, 1919 was the day of Baisakhi, a major Sikh festival, so people had come to the holy city from surrounding Punjab villages and gathered to listen to speakers. They were also unhappy with the deportation of independence leaders Dr. Saifuddinn Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal out of state to Dharamsala. The protesters were mostly Sikh, the leaders being deported a Muslim and a Hindu, and India then secular in the minds of the people.
Brig-General Reginald Dyer the local commander had banned all meetings. To him the crowd gathering in the Bagh was a challenge to authority. He took a contingent of Gurkha troops and proceeded forthwith to disperse what to him was an illegal assembly. It is worth noting that Nepali Gurkhas are alien to the area, speak a different language, and look more like Tibetans. The force took up positions on a raised bank at the main entrance and were ordered to fire on the unarmed crowd. People tried to flee toward the other exits and in the stampede some were trampled. Yet the firing continued for an incomprehensible ten whole minutes using up 1650 rounds and leaving hundreds dead and over a thousand wounded.
No respite for the Sikhs despite their anti-Muslim stance during the 1947 partition. In 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by a Sikh bodyguard — itself a result of her military response killing Sikh religious zealots occupying the Amritsar Golden Temple — riots broke out. An estimated 8000-17,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and Haryana. The connivance of the Delhi police and the Congress party has long been suspected, and Human Rights Watch has complained of no prosecution for the killings. Ditto for the perpetrators of the Muslim pogrom in Gujarat during Narendra Modi’s rule.
While the callousness of the Qissa Khwani Bazaar and Jallianwalla Bagh incidents horrifies, the number killed pales in comparison to what has happened since independence. Within months of freedom, India invaded the independent principality of Hyderabad, allied to the British since the 18th century. An estimated 200,000 people were killed and many fled to Pakistan.
It also invaded, occupied (1973) and then annexed Sikkim in 1975, a Himalayan foothill monarchy since 1642. The suppressed independence movement in neighboring Assam and the Northeast and other ongoing insurgencies across at least a quarter of India continue.
In Kashmir, a decades long struggle for some kind of autonomy has cost tens of thousands of lives. Estimates vary from 40 to 80 thousand. Some Indians have a conscience: Long critical of India’s stance, the Booker Prize winning novelist and peace activist Arundhati Roy has called the Modi government ‘reckless’ in its policy there.
The Muslim minority in India appears to be intimidated and abused. A recent feature story on Chamanganj, a Muslim neighborhood in Kanpur, illuminates the distress and discrimination experienced by Muslims. The Congress candidate never visits; the BJP candidate shows up hoping to capture some votes but his party’s policy is notoriously anti-Muslim.
The violence against Christians is also on the rise. Opendoorsusa.org reports over 12,000 incidents last year, while the number of churches attacked rose dramatically from 34 to 98. It has now become the 10th most dangerous country in the world for Christians on the 2019 World Watch List.
A secular India, the pride of Indian independence leader and its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is under threat. In its place, a muscular Hindu nationalist agenda enforced by goons from nationalist organizations has been labeled “saffron terror”. The Hudson Institute called these attacks “not inchoate mob violence, triggered by … insult; rather they involved careful planning by organized Hindu extremists …”
The record is surprising yet evident: Independent India has killed hundreds of times more people than the Dyer atrocity, and the present-day Indian subcontinent is becoming a noticeable contrast to the relatively secular country of 1919. In India itself, the Modi government and its affiliates by encouraging Hindu nationalism must shoulder the blame.
The Durand Line Issue
The Durand Line is a 2,200-kilometre debated border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was set up in 1893 between Sir Mortimer Durand, a British negotiator and respectful hireling of the British Raj, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Amir, to settle the constrain of their individual circles of impact and make stride discretionary relations and exchange between the two nations. Afghanistan was considered by the British as a free state at the time, in spite of the fact that the British controlled its remote issues and discretionary relations. The single-page assertion, dated 12 November 1893, contains seven brief articles, counting a commitment not to work out obstructions past the Durand Line.
A joint British-Afghan boundary overview took put beginning from 1894, covering a few 1,300 km of the border. Built up towards the near of the British-Russian “Great Game”, the coming about line set up Afghanistan as a buffer zone between British and Russian interface within the locale.
The line, as somewhat adjusted by the Anglo-Afghan Settlement of 1919, was acquired by Pakistan in 1947, taking after its independence. The forced Durand Line cuts through the Pashtun tribal ranges and assist south through the Balochistan locale, politically partitioning ethnic Pashtuns, as well as the Baloch and other ethnic bunches, who live on both sides of the border. It demarcates Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan of northern and western Pakistan from the northeastern and southern areas of Afghanistan.
From a geopolitical and geostrategic viewpoint, it has been depicted as one of the foremost unsafe borders within the world. Although Pakistan recognized the Durand Line as an international border, it remains to a great extent unrecognized by Afghanistan. In 2017, in the midst of cross-border pressures, previous Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Afghanistan will “never perceive” the Durand Line as the international border between the two countries.
The Durand line remains a bone of contention between the two nations and a primary reason why Afghanistan and Pakistan have yet failed to establish cordial relations. Afghanistan claims a chunk of the KPK and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan on the basis that it was acceded to Pakistan, though it was originally a part of Afghanistan, with people dwelling on each sides having the same culture, language and way of life etc.
What is very clear is that relations between the two states have been tinged with hostility ever since Pakistan became an independent state in 1947. There are mainly two interrelated, historical reasons for this: the problem of the “Durand Line” — the shared but disputed border of the two countries; and Afghan support for the “Pakhtoonistan” movement in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP)
The questions is answered by both nations with a bias towards their respective national interest in mind, both Pakistan and Afghanistan claiming areas divided by the Durand line as their legitimate part.
Major accusations of Afghanistan over the Durand line are: its legitimacy period has terminated; it was in the original agreement between the British and the Afghans claimed its validity only for 100 years, which has expired. Nevertheless, neither Afghan government, nor the foremost dynamic advocates of this see have ever displayed any plain instrument demonstrating their claim. Nor do we discover, upon looking at the pertinent archives, i.e. the Durand Line assertion and the rest of the records confirmed until 1896 by the individual committees for assurance and boundary of the British-Afghan border, any arrangement confining the term of the understanding to 100 year time. It is undoubtedly a riddle how this supposition might spread over the nation without being addressed at all.
Another claim of Afghanistan in the de-legitimizing the boarded is that the assertions relating to it collapsed when the British exchanged powers to Pakistan. The agreement was done with British India and not with Pakistan. This was a main reason that Afghanistan was one of the very few countries that opposed the addition of Pakistan in the UN- since it alleged it of illegally annexing Afghanistan’s territory.
One more accusation to not accept the boarder comes as the understandings were persuasively forced upon Afghanistan-it is ethically unmerited- is certainly an issue worth encourage talk and contention. In any case, whereas one may concede the dispute to be fair and genuine, it remains deficiently to refute the status of the Durand Line as an international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Durand Line understanding of 1893 isn’t the sole point of reference in border assessment. At slightest other four assertions (of 1905, 1919, 1921 and 1930), which had the assent of both sides, must be counseled. Clearly, Afghanistan cannot claim that all of the afterward four assertions were concluded in a coercive environment, particularly the Kabul 1921 understanding for foundation of neighborly commercial relations, which not as it were marked but approved in 1922, and beneath which disobedience was traded by the agents of both states in Kabul.
The boarder is not rejected by any other party of the world except Afghanistan itself, making the Afghan case further weakened.
No matter how much Afghanistan retaliates over this matter, the Durand line is widely accepted as an international boarder and the afghan claim will likely not bear fruit. The Afghans should rather hold the British accountable for the “so said” unfair distribution and not Pakistan, since Pakistan did not decide into this matter at all but was a decision purely made between the Afghans and the British- rather battle the British towards their claim and not make this a political issue more than a legitimate claim.
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