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Politics & Diplomacy

Baluchis, Beijing, and Pakistan’s
Gwadar Port
Ziad Haider

On 3 May 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed and Ziad Haider is
eleven others, including nine Chinese and two Pakistanis, were Research Assistant for
the South Asia Pro-
injured when a remote-controlled car bomb hit their van. The gram at the Henry L.
engineers had been traveling to the Gwadar port in the south- Stimson Center.

west Pakistani province of Baluchistan. In response, President
Pervez Musharraf and then Prime Minister Zafarallah Jamali
immediately sent messages of condolences to their Chinese
counterparts, assuring them that a few terrorists could never
undermine the Sino-Pakistani friendship. Within the week,
the Frontier Corps was deployed to the port and armed escorts
were assigned to the Chinese workers. Following the detention
of eighteen people, Pakistani officials declared on 9 May that
they had arrested the “key suspect” behind the attack. Since
then, obscure reports periodically appear in the Pakistani press
regarding other culprits who have been apprehended with
scant information provided on their background.
The alacrity of Islamabad’s response shows the immense
premium it places on the Sino-Pakistani relationship and the
Gwadar deep seaport project. The port lies at the heart of
President Musharraf’s vision of prosperity for Pakistan. It is
meant to transform Pakistan into a vibrant hub of commer-
cial activity among the energy rich Gulf and Central Asian
states, Afghanistan, and China, and to provide the Pakistan

Winter/Spring 2005 [ 9 5 ]

India. will not be easy. Pakistani officials should lever- India and Iran over Sino-Pakistan mar. Thus. do not share China and and technical assistance on development Pakistan’s enthusiasm for the port. the Baluchis and Beijing The port fuels bitter discontent among need to be firmly anchored to it. the port project. The joint construction Pakistan’s cooperation in the U. however. and it must assure them of workers and 80 percent of the funds for their stake in a project of critical impor- the construction of the port. While Pakistan and China believe that line as a naval base.S. The Gwadar port ably rejects it as is a symbol of Pak-China cooperation and is part of our joint Pakistan’s stepping- efforts to build modern infrastructure projects in Pakistan. The projects due to security concerns.-led of large-scale development projects has war on terror. more prosper- activity for the entire region. is one of tance to national security. For built with Indian assistance. and the local Baluchis view it as a potential “It is not possible to tell who the perpetrators of this crime threat to their economic are. local Baluchi nationalists who believe that the benefits of the project will bypass them Gwadar Dividends. BALUCHIS. it must recognize that the port’s the Indian Ocean. the tribution of technical assistance.interests and security. Realizing the target Pakistan-China friendship. 450 local Baluchis. Failure to the latest chapters in the storied “all. Pakistan Foreign Ministry Spokesman1 Islamabad can bolster its position by adopting a two-pronged strategy. Gwadar port. however.Gwadar dream in such ingly Pakistan’s positive economic profile. import routes and extend its presence in First. Iran. the port will act as a strategic hub for commercial stronger. Both sides have [ 9 6 ] Georgetown Journal of International Affairs . will serve as Pakistan to reap the dividends of the Central Asia’s conduit to warm waters. prits would be given [the] severest punishment. AND PAKISTAN’S GWADAR PORT Navy with strategic depth along its coast. So some vicious mind has tried to ous state.age the port to attract Chinese invest- itime activities and has sparked a tacit ment and to forge a vibrant economic competition over whether Pakistan’s relationship with China that reflects their Gwadar port or Iran’s Chabahar a consensus on the port could weather” friendship. What we can and al-Qaeda presum- say with certainty is that it was a terrorist act. further cemented ties. and increas.2 port has raised eyebrows in neighboring Second. BEIJING. China and Pakistan and who maintain longstanding griev have a history of collaboration in the ances against the federal government. The port will also the port will deliver significant eco enable China to diversify its crude oil nomic and military gains. stone to becoming a Once built. The president has ordered an inquiry and said that the cul. The military realm and international political port also presents a potentially irresistible fora stemming from a shared view of an target to al-Qaeda as payback for adversarial India.” an inimical environment -Masood Khan. China’s con greatest opponent is its own people. result in its violent derailment and possi- Certain regional state and non-state bly preclude future Chinese manpower actors. strong politico-military relationship.

the their “all-weather” friendship. will gested that foreign investors have include the building of nine additional expressed an interest in investing some berths. Asian republics. point of access to the Gulf ports.4 While this grain terminal. Premier Zhu Rongji the Iran-Pakistan border. an occasion through various development projects. the Gwadar Pakistan’s domestic security situation port will provide a stable and proximate into their calculations. one bulk cargo terminal. Construction of the Gwadar port regional trade. marked with much fanfare and fireworks. In Afghanistan. a Chinese cargo ves and theoretically will allow for the socio- sel carrying port-related equipment suc. Second. as per Gwadar to Saindak. in light of the chronic investors who will continue to factor instability in the Gulf region. HAIDER Politics & Diplomacy hailed the Karakoram Highway. will cultivate the region’s a sign of the near completion of Phase I vast and unexplored natural resources. the Local Baluchi nationalists believe the benefits of the port will pass them by. world’s oil supplies flow. Chinese Xinjiang region with access to the tinued with the Gwadar port and the Arabian Sea’s warm waters. and slated to be completed early next year.3 number seems somewhat inflated. The port will also enable ing his visit to Pakistan on the fiftieth the transfer of Central Asia’s vast energy anniversary of the establishment of Sino. earning Pakistani relations. Phase I involves the construction tion of roads and rails linking the coastal of three multipurpose ship berths and is region to the rest of Pakistan. as the symbol of ping point in the region. Pakistan significant profits in transit fees. in mid-November. Iran. Baluchistan. $248 million required for Phase I of the These funds will allow for the construc project. under construction and runs parallel to Symbolically. economic uplift of the local Baluchis cessfully berthed at Gwadar. which is currently an agreement concluded in May 2004. and two oil terminals. the port is necting Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang strategically located to serve as a key ship- province with Islamabad. A road from Chashma II nuclear power plant. estimated at $600 million. Sino. will be the announced China’s decision to under shortest route between Central Asia and write the port project in May 2001 dur the Arabian Sea. resources to world markets. described by Pakistan’s Navy Chief as the through which nearly 40 percent of the country’s third naval base after Karachi Winter/Spring 2005 [ 9 7 ] . Certain Pakistani press reports have sug- Phase II. and the Pakistani development projects have con. one $8 billion in Baluchistan. First. Just 250 The Gwadar port has also been miles from the Straits of Hormuz. Afghanistan. The economic significance of the port potential of the port is not lost on is two-fold. The Chinese have acted upon this By making Gwadar the pivot of pledge. con. Pakistan will also attract began in March 2002 after the Chinese considerable investment into its most agreed to provide $198 million of the underdeveloped province. Despite port will provide the landlocked Central improving Sino-Indian relations.

In 2003 Madhavendra Singh stated that India was China imported 51 percent of its total closely observing Chinese activity on the China’s interests in the port are to consolidate its relationship with Pakistan. AND PAKISTAN’S GWADAR PORT and Ormara and as an improvement in U. presence in the Arabian Sea. Watchful and Wary Neighbors. a Chinese presence at energy routes and counter the Chinese Gwadar allows China to ensure the secu. the Gwadar port will pro and sensitive information to India’s spy vide Pakistan with crucial strategic depth agency. the doctrine calls for building existing routes. Pakistan expects it to alle.”8 Some Indian analysts compare China’s primary interests in the the construction of the port to China’s Gwadar port are to continue consolidat.6 agent in Karachi who “provided strategic Consequently. dled 90 percent of Pakistan’s sea-borne trade in 2001. naval activity in the Persian Gulf. port. along which Gwadar is however. on 2 July 2004. Iran and India. diversify and secure its crude oil import routes. In projects. BEIJING. establishment of facilities at Coco Island ing its relationship with Pakistan through in Myanmar to monitor Indian maritime large-scale collaborative development activity and missile testing in Orissa. and port is 450 kilometers farther from the future U. which han. Pakistan has have warily watched the construction of critically felt this constriction in the past. oil import oil routes.5 The Indian activity in the Arabian Sea. to diversify and secure its crude an interview with Jane’s Defence Weekly. viate the congestion that Pakistani mar. It could also monitor a nuclear ballistic missile submarine as [ 9 8 ] Georgetown Journal of International Affairs . crude imports from the Middle East. the Pakistani police during the 1971 war and threatened to do claimed that it had arrested an Indian so again during the 1999 Kargil crisis. In including when India blockaded Karachi fact.S.BALUCHIS. Pakistan’s deep-sea water defense. itime assets face in Karachi. and expressed concern about the of Malacca has compelled China to look Chinese Navy’s close interaction with “a for alternate routes.7 Chinese officials few neighboring countries” that could have publicly stated their interest in “seriously endanger vital Indian shipping turning the port into a transit terminal routes in the Gulf.”9 for crude oil imports from Iran and India’s new naval doctrine specifically Africa to China’s Xinjiang region. increasing piracy in the Straits located. seeks to address India’s need to secure Furthermore.-Indian maritime coopera- Indian border than Karachi. Two key regional players. tion in the Indian Ocean.S. Released in rity of its energy-related shipments along May 2004. and extend its presence in the Indian Ocean. Makran coast. and to extend its Indian Navy Chief Admiral presence in the Indian Ocean. including maps of the Gwadar along its coastline. the Gwadar port in their backyard.

China and Tajikistan. India’s overtures to Central Asia can be a transit route will be established that will viewed as a westward extension of their run from Iran through Herat in western “relaxed” jostling for influence in Afghanistan and Mazar-e Sharif and Southeast Asia. That cause for all parties to support President Iran is permitting Afghanistan to use the Karzai and refrain from king making in Chabahar port with a substantial dis Kabul. the Chabahar port and sea-based nuclear weapons—and has not escaped the notice of Pakistani developing a blue-water fleet that can officials who have stated. posite dialogue parallels the warming Afghanistan. Indian Navy long-range plan.11 Meanwhile. China Sherkhan Bandar in northern and India’s burgeoning energy appetites Afghanistan to Tajikistan. but the Chabahar port would inflict Ocean. aptly reflects the Iran-Afghan forces—the ability to launch land-. and northward to Sino-Indian relations. Indo-Pakistani. India needs to bolster its striking a huge financial setback for Pakistan. “Pakistan is project power into the Arabian Sea and pinning huge hopes on the Gwadar pro beyond. The competition and coopera- count on port fees. particularly with significant transportation and infra- Afghanistan under President Hamid structure advances and stability in Karzai. and including Pakistan. which remains cool toward Afghanistan. and Tajikistan. In its efforts. The inter-port rivalry may in fact ing of the “Road Map to Strategic prove to be beneficial by stimulating Cooperation. Sino-Indian. the latter giving common Pakistan for supporting the Taliban. Kazakhstan. ject as the transit point for goods from ning officers have stated that as the deple Russia and the CARs (Central Asian tion of the world oil reserves will bring Republics) bound for the Gulf and the more regional powers to the Indian East. Stemming Taliban and China’s interest in acquiring from President Mohammed Khatami’s Iranian natural gas and developing its oil January 2003 visit to India and the sign fields.”12 power and command-and-control. According to Iranian officials. air-. the Gwadar port and the transit routes The doctrine particularly highlights need not be viewed solely through a China’s nuclear missile submarines and confrontational lens. HAIDER Politics & Diplomacy part of India’s envisioned triad of nuclear oil tankers. with the exception of tion over the Gwadar port thus demon Winter/Spring 2005 [ 9 9 ] . and from there imbue their advances in Central Asia up to China. partial upper hand over Pakistan due to Other critical factors in the emergence its warmer relations with the Central of vibrant regional commerce include Asian states. The Iran in constructing the Chabahar port resumption of the Indo-Pakistan com- and road links between Iran. Recent thaws in its ties with Indian Ocean rim nations. Talks of links and tacitly compete with Pakistan in cap. sur The strategic competition surrounding veillance. Looking ahead.10 Iranian-Pakistani bilateral relations Iran’s response to the Gwadar port has augur well for regional economic been to construct its own Chabahar port prospects across the board. Iran has a with a more ominous overtone.” India has agreed to assist even greater trade in the region. Pakistan relations since the fall of the Kyrgyzstan. between the Gwadar port and Iran occur turing access routes and energy-related against the backdrop of improving Iran- trade from Afghanistan. entente. and intelligence capabilities.

and unemployment. the element of this ongoing quasi-insurgency inequitable allocation of federal is incontrovertible. Baluchistan only receives a Pakistani military spokesperson. Islamabad must secure the con- ment will displace Baluchis and dilute fidence of the local Baluchis and provide their culture. Baluchis continue to chafe under what Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). On 16 August quell a popular uprising. some of their fringe elements may find Having been largely excluded from the common cause with al-Qaeda in severing decision making process surrounding the the Gwadar knot that uniquely ties port. in terrorist activities in Baluchistan. As the cost of land in Gwadar fluid linkages between countries in the has skyrocketed. Baluchi nationalists resources. the port. and new security relationships land by real estate agencies at low prices are formulated. with the price of a 500- Middle East and Central. It should clamp down on ence in the region by opening more can. gas and twelve others were wounded near Sui. of they regard as domination by the abetting these attacks and being “involved Punjabis. cent of the country’s natural gas capacity. India and Iran’s Baluchi nationalist leaders have vocifer wariness toward the port pales in com. the real estate sharks.BALUCHIS. the province is plagued by rampant Groups within Baluchistan are now poverty. Army bases and personnel have ernment ordered the armed forces to been increasingly targeted. land. Pakistan’s largest ethnic group. resulting in the disrup- ing reached their zenith in the 1970s. AND PAKISTAN’S GWADAR PORT strates the increasingly important and tonments. Many Baluchis have long harbored Attacks on gas pipelines are virtually a nationalist sentiments with tensions hav daily occurrence. resulting in 2004. the primarily indigenous military’s prevalence in the province. provide technical [ 1 0 0 ] Georgetown Journal of International Affairs . rupees. port and the federal government that tle benefits seen locally. the nevertheless. from $130 to $7000. and the exploitation of the harbor sufficient antipathy toward the province’s vast natural resources with lit. Major General Shaukat Sultan. To reduce the internal threat facing Baluchis in the region seeking employ.14 Prominent Internal Fissures. violently venting their frustrations. As Pakistan’s backward hinter. In addition. South. the federal gov. tion of energy and the loss of thousands of Between 1973 and 1977.13 Today. and square yard plot reportedly having risen East Asia as economic ties are created. ously condemned the project for some parison to the deep-seeded mistrust with time and have threatened to resort to vio- which local Baluchis view the Gwadar lence in order to drive away investors and project. India’s foreign intelligence agency. BEIJING. five paramilitary troops were killed thousands of casualties. and the Pakistan Army will them with a sense of ownership over its continue to consolidate its military pres. fields in Baluchistan account for 70 per home to Pakistan’s main gas facilities. the influx of non.”15 manifested in the Punjabi-dominated Nevertheless. accused marginal amount in royalties. and the subsequent sale to non-Baluchis with huge profit margins. development. a major source of cultural and historical relationships are bitterness has been the acquisition of local revisited. illiteracy. the other provinces. Baluchis worry that the economic together Pakistan’s national security gains of the project will be siphoned off to interests and its foremost ally. derail the project.

in such a fluid and explosive $2. The Ties That Bind. been surprisingly deficient in the past. the nineties can partially explain the lack of land-based trade. China is trafficking in arms and radical Islamic ide- capable of critically assisting Pakistan on ology into its restive western province. President China was reluctant to allow the free flow Musharraf has repeatedly stated that of goods along the Karakoram Highway Pakistan’s economic growth and security because of its fear of the simultaneous are his primary priorities. provide compensation to all border dispute and burgeoning eco- those displaced by the port construction. nal actors will have greater room in which Still. Chinese military assistance to maintain a ence in the region. bilateral trade has parties in a vicious cycle of violence. however. spearheaded through a series of bilateral agreements Winter/Spring 2005 [ 1 0 1 ] .16 undermine President Musharraf’s strate. The Gwadar port provides an Adviser. al-Qaeda and other exter ume registered between China and India. sensitivities regarding the military pres. Pakistani pol- authorities. with a 35 percent rise to Moreover. The establishment of strategic balance vis-à-vis India. Pakistan’s support for Islamic militancy in gic vision for Pakistan. they would be prudent to broad Baluchistan and the initiation of a polit en the contours of their relationship and ical dialogue between President make inroads into the Chinese econo- Musharraf’s de facto National Security my. more frequent and early 1960s. never- a parliamentary standing committee on theless. should make Pakistan con- implement the project plan by building a sider how it can insulate its relationship consensus with local and provincial from this warming trend. China has revived the land route India’s warming relations. the balance of trade remains over- to maneuver by plugging into the existing whelmingly in China’s favor. both these fronts. half the trade vol- environment. nomic ties.4 billion last year. In tary heavy-handedness. steadily increased. and pay attention to local icymakers can continue to expect Baluchi nationalists may find common cause with al-Qaeda in severing the Gwadar knot that uniquely ties together Pakistan’s national security interests and foremost ally. and greater mili. Failure to In spite of the depth of Sino-Pakistani address Baluchi grievances will only breed politico-military collaboration since the greater frustration. and perhaps will be able to exports amounted to $1. however.8 billion com derail plans for the port and thereby pared to Pakistan’s $575 million. During this period. China and Today. Tariq Aziz. HAIDER Politics & Diplomacy training and commit jobs to local by successive rounds of talks on their Baluchis. economic cooperation has lethal acts of sabotage. and the nationalists important avenue to do just this. is a step in the right direction. whose alienation. thus locking all recent years.

to facilitate trade. the con designation of the Gwadar port as an struction of the Gwadar port acts as a lit export-processing zone with special mus test for Pakistan's ability to operate on incentives extended to Chinese compa a consensual basis with the Baluchis and to nies. it foreshadows the facilitating trade during the Governor of growing linkages amongst countries of Xinjiang’s October 2004 visit to Pakistan. however. The Gwadar port also offers Pakistan an nate the Gwadar port a free trade zone. it needs border trade. China has also pledged lies in its ability to connect vital Central to develop its western regions including Asian and Middle Eastern energy sources Xinjiang as part of its “Go West” policy. While no reliable figures to gain Baluchi support and to reinforce exist for the Gwadar port’s impact on Beijing’s long-term investment. While this competition is currently in offered the Gwadar port’s services for its incipient stages.17 Seeking to capitalize on by establishing trade links and engaging in Xinjiang’s rising fortunes and strengthen development projects with other states. BEIJING. Central. Pakistani leaders should consider convert the port from a vulnerable link to granting such concessions to the Chinese an impregnable cornerstone of the Sino- business community to diversify the port’s Pakistan friendship. but also to Pakistani consciousness by providing them address the gross trade imbalance. Sino-Pakistan friendship and root it in ness community advocate the eventual even firmer ground. Pakistani officials should May attack is a reminder that endeavors of open a consulate in Xinjiang and encour great reward are usually fraught with risk. Sino-Pakistani economic ties. maximize its returns on the port. age private companies to establish repre. A survey of regional views of the Gwadar mentation of a preferential trade agree. and East Asia and the Pakistan should continue to leverage Middle East. project naval power in the Indian Ocean. port suggests that the port’s importance ment. invaluable opportunity to cash in on the while some members of the Pakistani busi. up 10. South. and expanding their naval capabili- expanding trade links with Xinjiang and ties.7 billion potential of the port has propelled region- in GDP in 2003. By Sino-Pakistani trade. expansion of border trade and the imple. Pakistani officials addressing Baluchi concerns. Prime upgrading their own internal infrastruc- Minister Shaukat Aziz vocally called for ture. For Islamabad to minimize its risks and sentative offices there to facilitate cross. [ 1 0 2 ] Georgetown Journal of International Affairs . with a stake in the country’s prosperity. Meanwhile. Discussions are already underway to desig. Pakistan clearly stands to benefit investment for development and joint immensely from the successful opera- venture projects in and around the tionalization of the port. Islamabad and the business community continue to can begin to integrate a long-alienated maintain high expectations to not only segment of its population into a larger expand the volume of trade. and to Xinjiang has already demonstrated its eco.8 percent from al players to maneuver around each other the previous year. nomic potential by having registered $4. AND PAKISTAN’S GWADAR PORT signed in November 2003 that call for an stakeholders within China. the 3 Gwadar port. Ultimately. who are breaking out of their Chinese engagement in the port so that it regional bloc molds and looking to the can act as an indispensable trade conduit Indian Ocean as a critical venue of inter for western China and to attract Chinese action.BALUCHIS. to world markets.8 The substantial economic and military billion in foreign trade and $22.

the specific mention of the Gwadar port demon in the South Waziristan Agency where a large-scale strates that Pakistani officials view it as a project of vital Pakistani military operation is underway against importance to Pakistan's national security that needs alleged al-Qaeda fighters. two Chinese engineers were kid. Winter/Spring 2005 [ 1 0 3 ] .gov. 6 May 2004. 15 September 2003.pakboi.” Times of India.” United 3 “Gawader. 15 September 2004. “Indian Spy in a rescue operation that left one of the engineers Held. work on the June 2004." DefenseNews. Inter- ber/October 2002). no. dam project has been suspended and further such 11 Ibid. China Trade Volume Reaches $2. 7 from engaging in development projects.” Daily Times. attacks may induce more caution and perhaps even the 12 “New Iranian Port to Hurt Gwadar Port's withdrawal of Chinese workers. how- napped while working at the Gomal Zam Dam project ever.” Daily Times. Chinese. 5 May 2004. 21 May 2 July 2004. Claims Pakistan. HAIDER Politics & Diplomacy NOTES 1 “Beijing Lauds Best Medical Care to Injured Crude Imports.” Times of India. 2 November 2003. 14 “Chinese. “Interview with Major Gener- Gwadar.” Government of Pakistan Board of Press International. Beijing has vowed that such incidents will not deter it 10 "India's New Naval Ambition. 10 May 2004. On 9 backing domestic individuals and groups and stirring October 2004. 17 November 2004. all to the detriment of Prospects.” The News (Pakistan). 13 “Calls for Baluchi Independence Grow. http://www. Internet. The kidnapping climaxed to be shielded from Indian scrutiny. “South Asia: Nuclear 17 “Xinjiang Seeks Balanced Investment. 7 May 2004. Pakistanis Back at Work in Gwadar. 5 “Navy to Build Base in Gwadar. 8 The frequency with which Indian and Pakistani 2 Chinese workers in Pakistan have since fallen officials accuse each other's intelligence agencies of victim to instability in other parts of Pakistan.” Daily Times. 4 Sarfaraz Ahmed.” Dow Jones. 7 “Gwadar Port Could Be Transit for China's htm (date accessed: 13 July 2004). 5 (Septem Internet Information Center. While ing Reach. http://www. violence diminishes the credibility of the report. 6 See Aysha Siddiqa-Agha.”Daily Times. former Guantanamo Bay 9 “Indian Navy Concerned Over China's Expand inmate Abdullah Meshud. “The Latest Hotspot: 15 Sarfaraz Ahmed. DAWN (Pakistan). the relationship. 19 16 “Pakistan.” pk/html/Gawadar.html (date accessed: 12 July 2004).” Daily Times. al Shaukat Sultan. net.4 April 2004.china. 9 March 2004.” China Navies?” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 56. remains at large. dead while the mastermind. Investment Report.