Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

In Pakistan’s Gwadar port, Chinese whispers grow

May 26, 2011

First, China helped develop Pakistan’s Gwadar port from scratch on the Baluchistan coast to take the pressure off the country’s main port of Karachi, a few hundred miles to the east. Now Pakistan’s defence minister has said that it would like its long-time ally to build a naval base at Gwadar, which sits on the doorstep of Gulf shipping lanes, less than 200 kms from the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz.

China, which provided more than 80 percent of the port’s $248 million development cost, has moved quickly to distance itself from Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar’s remarks about a naval base in Gwadar. The foreign ministry said China was not aware of any such proposal.

While China has stood by Pakistan in its hour of embarrassment following the discovery of Osama bin Laden living in relative comfort in a garrison town, it might be squirming a bit at its ally’s rather aggressive portrayal of their ties. The last thing it needs is to trigger off another round of alarm bells in the region about its big power objectives in the Indian Ocean, especially when it is not ready yet.

As Gideon Rachman wrote in the Financial Times this week (behind a paywall) the Chinese may be wincing at the appearance of the story about building a military base on the Pakistani coast in the Western press “because it will heighten the perception that China is overplaying its hand in the Pacific; an idea that has helped America to strengthen its military alliances across the region.”

The spectre of Chinese ships including perhaps the aircraft carrier that is under development and submarines operating from Gwadar is sure to feed insecurities in the region, drive countries to ramp up military spending and deepen alliances.

India, already worried about an increasingly assertive China, will be sufficently alarmed to pour more funds into its navy besides deepen ties with the United States and of late Japan to balance its interests in the region. Already the Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony has expressed concern about the growing defence ties between China and Pakistan.

So if China wanted to bide its time and build its capabilities as Deng Xiaoping told policymakers, the unveiling of its long-term ambitions in the Indian Ocean by Pakistani officials doesn’t sound like the best way of going about it.

It’s not that Beijing does not have strategic objectives as it tightens its embrace of Pakistan, especially when the neighbour is struggling with multiple crises of a deadly Islamist militancy, economic meltdown and international pressure to clean up parts of the security establishment tied to militant networks.

Gwadar port was, from the beginning, conceived to have a military role, as the intelligence site NightWatch points out. Forty years ago, it was a fishing village with a small port in a sheltered, deep water natural harbour with two bays. During the 1971 war with India, the Pakistani navy moved its ships from Karachi to Gwadar to avoid destruction by the Indian navy.  With the vulnerability of Karachi exposed during the war, successive Pakistani governments worked to build Gwadar, tucked further away from the reach of Indian navy, as an alternative. ”Since 1993 Pakistani governments have worked to develop Gwadar as a planned, modern, deep water port and city, as well as a “sensitive defense zone”, NightWatch said.

It said that reports that Chinese were building a base for its navy were a mischaracterisation. What is more likely is that Pakistan is building or will build a naval base at the port,  probably with Chinese assistance, and it will host the Chinese navy as well.  ”Chinese naval ships will call at Gwadar when the base is complete, as they do at Karachi. However, the base will be a Pakistan Navy base,” NightWatch said.

Some of the more nationalist elements in China are more open about their country’s long-term ambitions. An opinion piece in The Global Times newspaper, which is known to take aggressive postures, said Western countries and India were again playing up the “China threat theory” following the report about a naval base at Gwadar port which Beijing had denied. China at this point had internal issues to tackle rather than focus on the military alone,  Huanqiu Shibao wrote. Over the longer term however,  if China were to play a bigger role in Asia Pacific and indeed on the international stage, as many countries have repeatedly urged it to, Beijing would have to have overseas military bases. Just as China is expanding economic and cultural ties with the rest of the world, it will also be building military relations with countries. A greater Chinese security role will help protect trade routes from pirates and terrorists, the author argued.

“Thus, if the world really wants China to take more responsibilities in Asia-Pacific region and around the world, it should allow China to participate in international military co-operations and understand the need of China to set up overseas military bases.”


There was a peaceful phrase that was floating around for the past two or three years: “China’s peaceful rise”. I don’t hear it much more in the western media. Events such as the fishing boat fiasco with Japan, and the aggresive negotiations with SE-Asian states have given a reality check. Furthermore, giving Pak 50 fighter jetes.

I think China is too big to ignore, both politically and economically. Furthermore, there is just too much money to be made on all sides of the equation when dealing with china. Therefore, countries do business with China and also prepare for an agressive Chinese policy.

RE Gwadar:
As China continues to integrate more with Pak, it will lead to a weaker relationship of Pak and the west. This is good because then they will throw more weight behind India which will give India much needed help.

Posted by rainydays | Report as abusive

China’s economic might has arisen due to the huge US and European market. To maintain bases across the globe and float billions of dollars worth of fleets on the oceans and run deep sea submarines, China will need a lot more money. Countries are beginning to realize their over dependency on Chinese manufacturing. This can change and may curtail China’s growth pace. Unlike the US and other European powers, China is an inward looking society. They prefer to stick to themselves. China sends workers abroad and most of them do not interact with others and cannot integrate. These drawbacks will keep them secluded. China will need to rely on proxies to dominate others. For that, these proxies have to be like North Korea or Myanmar – dead silent as a grave yard. Any country aligning with China will be turned into a grave yard just so that Chinese could run their business. And to keep them under their belt, China will push these proxies outward towards their neighbors and help sustain a conflict. All these things will cost money. The USSR went broke trying to sustain its power in too many countries. Unless China changes and becomes an open society and helps set up a conducive environment for creativity, it cannot become a US. It would rather become a USSR. Its ports and other barricades to surround others will not last long. Money will definitely become a problem. A place like Gwador will need a lot of money to keep secure, considering the fact that it is sitting in the middle of a region full of militancy and xenophobia. Even Pakistanis are looked at as foreigners there by the Balochis. China can build whatever it wants at Gwador, but they too are going to bleed in the long run by setting up camp in this treacherous region.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

This China card is for public consumption. See what paks do behind doors in real life. -begged-us-600-million-fill-budget-gap-w ikileaks

A 2009 US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks has exposed how Pakistani leaders had to practically beg the US ambassador for money to carry out basic functions such as providing education and drinking water to its people last year.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

I think the Chinese are as smart as people give them credit for – perhaps smarter.

In their view, Pakistan is a convenient tool to play against India, but only upto a point. That point being – trade with India should not suffer, trade and money are their primary concern. They will flex only so much muscle as to keep the others and their contemporaries guessing – but it will not be done at the expense of increasing trading opportunities. It is in China’s interest that India maintain a reasonable distance from the US, not gang up. That would be the fly in the ointment.

In spite of what China’s ardent admirers here may say, pray and think, they are living in a fool’s paradise waiting for an American demise. Not going to happen in their lifetimes, either militarily or economically. The US may not be as powerful as it once was but its still a darn sight more powerful than its nearest competitor. The rest is wishful thinking and a pipe dream…..dream on..

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

When US commentators talk about China, especially when it comes to military, most of them freak out. They analyse and view china with their western eyes and ignore that Chinese are not Western and will never be. In a nut shell Chinese are much more pacific then their western Homo sapiens counterpart. I do agree with DaraIndia above that China is much more interested at developing his economy than getting into arm race. In order to do that, China needs friends where ever they are regardless of race, religion and political system as long as these new friends do respect his identity, culture and territories.
The period where western colonialists powers were proliferate in china without impunity is over. In order to rise peacefully they need to have the means to protect themselves from any threat. In my view this is perfectly legitimate.

Posted by armonid | Report as abusive

Dream on fellows like the Romans when it crumbled. Arab wealth is not going to last for ever either, American legions like the Roman legions would be stranded in freign cuntries without resouces to be able to return. 40,000 prisoners are to be set free frm the American prisons due to lack of room space. America has long lived with German technology, which is now at the disosal of China, the new Super Power. Even the greatest experts are contiualy revising their forecasts about China becoming the largest world economy.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Great idea….if the Pakistanis want the US Fifth Fleet parked off their coast for the next half century, with another Indian fleet right behind them.

In any event, the Chinese aren’t that stupid. Even if the Pakistanis like to think they are. The last thing they want is such a confrontational relationship with India and the US. And for what benefit? The Chinese have never shown any inclination to meddle militarily, even if their own interests are at stake. They are usually happy to wag fingers at the UN, bribe locals, offer kickbacks, etc. or just flat out let the Americans do their dirty work. Why deploy naval forces to secure the Gulf, when the US does it for free! Just look at their contribution to stamping out piracy in the Indian Ocean. Token efforts. Even though a huge chunk of trade through the area supports Chinese exports. For all the fears about China, they are actually quite hesitant to project power far from their shores. Even less so, given the fact that they don’t have much of a blue-water navy and would be playing up against two of the largest blue-water navies in the world.

I would be supremely surprised if the Chinese took up this offer seriously (though they might make a token gesture and put a patrol boat or two at Gwadar). And I would not be surprised at all if, behind the scenes, the Chinese are getting antsy at Pakistan constantly pushing them into positions of conflict with India and the US, when they have no desire to be in such positions. Somehow, I don’t see the Chinese as taking kindly to Islamabad determining their foreign and defence policies.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Has the Americans ever won a war on their own. No not in their history, infact one of the few countries in the world which has never won a war. Name the countries which have defeated America? I come to few names immediately, China, Vietnam, North Korea and not to forget little Cuba still showing its index finger.
So stop this nonsensical verbatim Mr KZ. Go back to school for a refresher course. War is not won with drones or stone throws from a distance, it is won on battle ground. Pat Buchanan and Prof Roberts slogan, no more American foot prints in Islamic world.The USA has lost the minds and hearts of Pakistan people, Zardari and kyani are looking for retirement, and an honurable way to end their love affair with its ally, whom they mistakenly trusted. Too late for hillary to rescue what Obama blew up. Taliban actions are going to break the back of Pakistan military who foolishly opened the highway for NATO supplies from the arabian sea to khyber pass. Pakistani people for the first time in their life are now rising against their military, which is made up of their famly members. War is terror is the reality hey have woken up to. All the obscene labels used by the USA are now in question. Do not also speak for China, before you have bought a copy of the red book and read Mao’s commandments to his people.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

I agree with KZ. Blogger Pakistan sounds like he never heard of WW2 and the fact that the US defeated two formidable enemies Japan and Germany simultaneously, and then helped them to become economic superpowers. Pak the country can’t see past its Indophobia and are stuck in neutral. Whatever. The Chinese should indeed be alarmed by the Paks sucking them in to a worthless confrontation with India or the US and derailing their primary goal of building their economy. Everything they do is focused on that, from invading Tibet, helping the Paks, forays into Africa and the Middle East, investing in Australian miners, deliberate monetary policy, schmoozing to Europe their biggest export market, etc. They help the Paks in order to get easier access to Iranian oil and gas, and controlling terrorists on their doorstep. The Chinese do things at a deliberate pace and take calculated risks only for good economic reasons and to protect their borders. With existing trade and economic and cultural ties with the US, and possible large scale investing in the US to use their foreign surplus, why risk anything? That would be stupid, which they are not.

Posted by kolea | Report as abusive

Another reason the Chinese won’t do it is because the Indians can retaliate. All the Indians have to do is decide that they are going to park a carrier group near the Straits of Malacca permanently. And maybe dispatch a few warships to be permanently stationed at the ports of some of those new found allies along the Pacific Rim.

The PLA maybe huge. But the PLAN has some real shortcomings. Whereas the Indians have always been a maritime power, the Chinese have only just woken up the utility of a blue-water navy. Given this massive disparity, it would be the height of stupidity to provoke the Indians and basically invite them to reciprocate the gesture by parking their navy near China.

Methinks, an excited Pakistani minister is running his mouth too much.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

No. 1 US is not too concerned with China having a port in Gwadar as it serves US interest 10 times more than it serves China’s.
No. 2 India maybe is more concerned on trade competition not militarily but crying which one attracts more attention?
No. 3 The likely reason China wants Gwadar Port is more of commercial than military. Is China at war with US? Far from it. A friendlier tie with the US is in China’s interest. China just recovered from much suffering doesn’t make sense to look for another one so soon not for another 100 years at least. No matter how US bashes China, China has always exercised restrain which is good as it avoids unproductive fights for both sides (and such restrain characteristics is actually what US has unceasingly criticised China on – freedom to express). Everyone should know that US has more than sufficient fire power in Arab waters alone to stop any single oil tanker leaving the coast including those from Iran, so what’s the big deal of having a Gwadar Port when China isn’t going to fire even a single gun shot other than her harmless howls and growls? But a successful Gwadar Port could allow pipe transportation of oil which is much faster than shipping assuming that Pakistan and Afganistan are free of radicalism. Hence China isn’t aiming at US nor India in the first place. Where Gwadar is, is a probable hostile territory of Pakistan which explains why Chinese expats have been kidnapped and killed and as such Pakistan probably wants facilities to watch over such hostility so that it doesn’t get out of hand but she could be short of funds which is where China can come in nicely. Also Gwadar region is Pakistan’s southwestern door which is very critical to Pakistan’s geopolitical play. Instead the Chinese probably seeing a one sided affair may have then politely rejected Pakistan indirectly doing US a huge favour – Pakistan can’t play hard ball with US.

Posted by vision966 | Report as abusive

Go back to sleep. Did I say something about India? My family has lived ww2, I have raised specific questions , you could answer if you wish and tell us which of the wars America has won on its own?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Visi000 has made some valid points about Gwadar. USA ,China and India are not at war. All those who have armadas on high seas are going to suffer the first casualties. Nuclear armed countries do not fight against each other with conventional weaponry!

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Pakistan is making an emotional move at this time which is a big mistake. By allowing the Chinese to get more access to roads and ports within Pakistan, they are calling a bluff that if the world does not mend its ways with Pakistan, then they would bring China in big time. China will have straight access from Central China through Karakoram to Gwadar port. Of course the goods traveling through this hostile route will end up being prohibitively expensive for any export. So trade plans seem like an eyewash. The road will have to be maintained by the Chinese and Pakistani military to prevent bandits from hijacking trucks and Balochi rebels from wreaking havoc in Gwadar. It is not going to be a Dubai for sure. By allowing the Chinese to take over the region for any military ventures in the future, Pakistan is pushing the US and other powers to do a similar thing inside Afghanistan and India.

For all one knows, these powers can turn Iran against Pakistan as well. There is still this century old Shia versus Sunni animosity that can be exploited at will and turned loose. Remember that Israel is watching Iran’s nuclear development. If at all anyone is deeply concerned about it, it is Israel. It will not want the Iranian missiles with nukes directed its way. It has its tentacles inside Iran as well. Israel might be unleashed to turn Iran against Pakistan using the Shia-Sunni divide.

Chinese are going to lose big time with their investment inside Pakistan by being caught in the middle of all the various conflicts that are going on.

India is not the only factor here. Any Indo-Centric move will only invite disaster for both China and Pakistan in the long run. The more the tilt towards China, the longer the US will try to stay in Afghanistan. For all one knows, it can trigger more problems like Pashtunistan separation etc to weaken the Sino-Pakistan alliance. Pakistan has nothing left to lose. It is already at the brink. But it will be dragging China into this hole from which getting out is going to be very difficult.

It is important to think hard and consider long term consequences. China is taking a huge investment risk. It can use Pakistan as a proxy. But going in deeper than this will burn their hands as well.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@ pakistan
Tiresome and convoluted drivel is the kind that terrorists use to justify Indophobia and hate America lunacy. FYI, Mao’s red book was replaced by Deng’s “black cat – white cat” philosophy forty years ago which started China on their upward trajectory. Trade always trumps ideobabble because everybody wants the same thing-a better life for their kids, a safer world, and freedom to develop their potential to the max. Get a real education.

Posted by kolea | Report as abusive

Mr kolea
No substance. everybody wants the same a better life for their kids and a safer world.Motherhood!
What was replaced in Mao’s red book? War and Peace?
Any one with a basic common sense would notice that even USA and other leaders of the world have been following Mao Tse Tung philosophies for the State more than even the chinese leaders. Once after a lapse of centuries of Nation’s history a person like Mao comes and he become an ICON for the world. Replace, what a non sense. perhaps you have replacements for Shakespeare, Goethe and Emmanmuel Kant as well. Revisit the education centre in your town and study human philosophy before you address me again!!

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Tiresome and convoluted drivel is the kind that terrorists usePosted by kolea

You got it. Stay clear of the resident Islamofascist mullah. Hope you are not in Germany, if you are your tax money is being used to support the parasite.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive


You are new to this forum and it may be worth repeating to you the conclusion/advice that the more regular contributors here have arrived at after painful experience – don’t waste time or energy engaging with Rex Minor. He lives on another planet altogether. Ignoring his comments is the best policy.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

You say US defeated two formidable enemies Japan and Germany simultaneously. Whoop!
This is pretty insulting for the British, the Canadian, the Russian, the French resistance’s movement and all the others who fought the German for six years, don’t you think?
This is pretty insulting for the Russian, the Chinese, the Australian, the New Zealanders, the Koreans and all the others who fought the Japanese, before the American came along with their nuclear dementia!
I don’t deny the contribution of US, but to say they defeated two formidable enemies is pretty simple view of history

Posted by armonid | Report as abusive

I am not the only one, there are also your country men from the orange brigade who have discovered that you belong to a junior club. Indians are all over the planet8every sixth person), not only in Australia where the Aussies do not wish to call prasadgo an Aussie, and in Germany too, where a prominent provincial premier declared to his counrymen , Kinder statt Inder, meaning chidren instead of allowing Indian IT specialists to enter Germany.

Rex minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

careful, sanjeev Miglani does not allow any crap comments on his article from Indians or non indians.

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Warning appreciated and heeded. India is unique; been there so may sound biased. No insult intended at all on WW2 as some other countries suffered enormous casualties civilian and military, like the former USSR: 26M civilians, 13M military, China and Poland. The US contribution of superior hardware, technology, manufacturing, quantity of weapons, supplies, logistics, and men (400+K fatalities) were decisive. Air superiority was achieved with thousands of P-51, P-47, P-38, F6F, F4U, B-17, B-24 and B-29. Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Pacific War. The US lost 100,000 men there. Russians defeated the Germans in the east, Allies in the west. Could the Allies have done it without American participation? Not in my opinion. Pearl Harbor was a blessing to the British with their backs to the wall. The British, Russians, Chinese, French and other Allies were supplied with war material 1941-45 by the Lend Lease Act. America has never taken sole credit for the Axis defeat. But if you were being mauled by a grizzly and a hunter came by and shot it dead, would you give the hunter credit or say you might have won with your knife given more time? Regarding “nuclear dementia”, refugee physicists Szilard and Einstein knew the Nazis were working on nuclear fission with eminent scientists (which included Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg) and persuaded FDR to start the Manhattan Project. If Germany had not been defeated in 1945, mushroom clouds might have appeared over London and Moscow soon thereafter. Deng Xiaoping’s quote: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat. If it catches mice, it’s a good cat” referring to economic models for China.

Posted by kolea | Report as abusive

Now you are talking turkey, Resource was what Churchil was looking for from the USA, not brave soldiers for combat.

Roosevelt sent the GI’s for combat in order to provide resources for the war. Pearl harbour accelrated American participation.
India should never forget that it was the allied Govts. which demanded from Britain to end the occupation of India once the war is over.
Now the amateur from australia can also take a lesson of hstory.
History also tells us that like Romans and the colonialists the fall of the USA is in progress. china is the emerging Super Power, not in terms of economics or weaponry only.

rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

All about learning history from someone who never heard, and in fact ‘claims’ first read here about the genocide in East Pakistan only this year. Also ‘claims’ in the last few months, even after being given references and site addresses, has still not been able to locate nor heard of the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission and its report.

Learn at your own peril

Yet knows half baked about Indian crimes against slaves, women, Sikhs, Kashmiris, other Indians etc etc etc just name it, he knows it all! But Bangla Desh genocide, yikes!!! A self proclaimed pseudo German expert on India – Pakistan – Afghanistan who wonders what Indians are doing here discussing Pakistan. Only he as a self proclaimed German has a special licence to do so.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

And I thought for a while that the old hog was now worried about the Indian social system and uncertainty of future pension payments. High blood pressure is not healthy for a any pensioner.

No one that I know claims to have knowledge of India or Pakistan, the lands of future and leave it to Indians and Pakistanis to confirm or deny the allegations of human abuse. To be honest, however, it is sickening to read from Indians against Pakistan on matters which are not related to the article!

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Many degrees of separation

By M.J. Akbar ees-of-separation.html

Gilani topped off a four-day visit to China with a claim that will surely enter the history books. Pakistan and China, he said, were “like one nation and two countries”. :-)

We shall not discuss the fine distinction between nation and country, except to note that the prime minister could have easily interchanged the terms without significant loss of meaning in his personal political dictionary. For mere outsiders, a question is inescapable: has Pakistan repositioned itself as the new Hong Kong? :-)

Beijing has not let us know whether it has accepted this generous offer by the world’s most powerful Islamic republic to become an associate member of the world’s most important atheist state.

Such ends could easily include the ‘liberation’ of China’s sole Muslim-majority province, Xinjiang, from Beijing. If evidence being currently given in the Headley trial in Chicago is to be believed, many of these ‘jihadis’ have been nurtured by intelligence operatives in the Pakistan military who thought that such volatile double and triple games would never backfire.

History tells us that China is sophisticated enough to manoeuvre through nuanced degrees of separation or proximity.

China’s policy towards lands south of the Himalayas is unlikely to be either open-ended or inflexible. Tactically, it will play with options. But its strategy will be guided by China’s security interests, not Pakistan’s.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

If I understood what the local jester is implying, or trying to get across I might have thought of rebutting. As usual though, it is way off on a tangent on the issues actually mentioned – chalk and cheese. Wish to retain my sanity.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Yes, it sounds like the Pakistani official has spoken too soon, or spoken aloud about something China wanted to keep secret…

Some good comments above, but although it’s the first time I’ve seen “pakistan” (Rex Minor) post, it seems obvious he’s a Chinese person pretending to be someone else. A tactic used by these Chinese Govt stooges all over the world. Here in China they they’re called the “50 cent gang” by more sophisticated Chinese who’re sick of their corrupt Chinese Govt.

I think China is (and will continue to be) happy to project power when they have it. Their belligerence to their neighbours in recent years shows that the chip on their shoulders (based on ‘wrongs’ done to them 100 years ago!!!) isn’t getting any smaller. Now they’re building a blue water navy, and I don’t think they be keeping it on their coast for long. They like to show off.

Posted by NueWurldOrdaa | Report as abusive

Chinese have been constructing replica of beautiful European cites. I guess soon they are going to embark on constructing picteresque cities if the USA including Kentucky, not Detroit, LA and Frisko but not harlem or phoenix. This would allow the good Americans to migrate to China when the USA constant conflict with the rivers get worst and the Pacific Ocean is no longer pacific and explodes to meet the Atlantic. The American people are unlikely to feel happy living on the aircraft carriers or even the moon.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

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