CPEC and Gwadar’s development rays of hope for Pakistan
As the epicenter of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the economic significance of the port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan has risen significantly in recent years. Three necessary conditions of the corridor were the development of the deep-sea port, the international airport at Gwadar and the development of surface transport connectivity between Gwadar and China’s far-west city of Kashgar.
The launch of the $230 million Gwadar International Airport through a Chinese grant on Friday catapults the city to new economic heights with hopes for speedy transits among Central Asian, Eurasian, South Asian and Middle Eastern business communities within three years. The deepwater port city is a key cog in China’s $60 billion dollar CPEC project as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that looks to connect landlocked Central Asian States and providing the shortest trade routes to the developing Western regions of China.
Presently, it is far too difficult for international businesspeople to reach Gwadar, and they have to use Karachi and Quetta airports located hundreds of miles away in order to make it to the port city. Without the appropriate travel facilities, the city will simply be unable to attract the level of foreign investment that is slated for its mega-development.
After completion, the airport will be handling air traffic from ATR 72, Airbus A-300 and Boeing B-747 aircrafts on domestic and international routes. Hopes also remain high that the new airport will contribute to improving a floundering Pakistani aviation industry because of its demographical importance, and bring in an increasing range of new commercial route opportunities to Pakistan’s national carrier.
The launch of the $230 million Gwadar International Airport through a Chinese grant on Friday catapults the city to new economic heights with hopes for speedy transits among Central Asian, Eurasian, South Asian and Middle Eastern business communities within three years.
Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
It is obvious that an international airport aids the economy by encouraging international commerce and tourism, as well as through generating employment. It not only connects people from different countries but essentially also connects economies. The breaking of ground at the new airport thus remains in line with Islamabad’s stance that economic cooperation among regional actors in the central, western and south Asian nations is the answer to their individual economic challenges.
Geo-economically, the international airport opens up trade routes in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, providing employment opportunities in various sectors to alleviate poverty in local communities.
The province is also deep in the throes of an insurgency, and without an economic lifeline, curbing that insurgency has been difficult. Nearly 70 percent of people in Balochistan live in poverty, and most of the insurgent groups in the province seem to be linked with a sense of deprivation and underdevelopment.
Indeed, the CPEC and Gwadar’s development appear to be rays of hope not only for the economy of the province at large, but also to assist government and security agencies in ending the recruitment of unemployed and disgruntled youth in Balochistan by insurgent group propaganda.
— Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University.