China not asked for military access to Gwadar, Pakistan admiral says

In this file photo, Pakistani Naval personnel stand guard near a ship carrying containers at the Gwadar port during the opening ceremony of a pilot trade program between Pakistan and China on Nov.13, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2018

China not asked for military access to Gwadar, Pakistan admiral says

  • Gwadar, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, is the crown jewel of China’s $60 billion investment in Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan
  • “The Gwadar port is purely a commercial venture and has no military overtones,” admiral Javaid Iqbal, Navy Secretary of the Pakistan Navy told a forum in Singapore

BEIJING: China has not asked for military access to Pakistan’s Chinese-funded, deep-water port of Gwadar, a senior Pakistani rear admiral said on Friday, amid persistent speculation in India and the United States it could become a Chinese naval base.
Gwadar, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, is the crown jewel of China’s $60 billion investment in Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan.
The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and mega-port to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China’s western regions.
Last year the Pentagon singled out Pakistan as a possible location for a future Chinese military base, though China has said that is pure speculation. Diplomatic and security sources see Gwadar as the likely location.
Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, which China styles as its answer to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore, Rear Admiral Javaid Iqbal, Navy Secretary of the Pakistan Navy, said Gwadar is a “significant addition to the regional maritime landscape.”
“Let me emphasize that the Gwadar port is purely a commercial venture and has no military overtones,” he told the forum.
“Suitably located outside the potentially risky and confined waters of the Gulf, Gwadar has the potential to act not only as a transit port for China and Central Asia but also a trans-shipment port impacting the prosperity of the entire region,” Iqbal added.
Speaking later to Reuters, he said he was very specific about the non-military nature of the port.
“The Gwadar port has no military dimension. It will be just a commercial port,” Iqbal said. “The Pakistan navy will maintain a presence to ensure maritime security, to ensure the security of the port.”
“The geopolitical debate that somehow goes on in the media about Gwadar being used as a foreign military base is not correct at all.”
Asked whether China had specifically asked for military access, he answered: “No, not at all.”
China opened its first overseas military base, which it formally calls a logistics facility, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti last year.
Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
China has repeatedly downplayed expectations it could be about to embark on a plan to build military bases around the world, even as it ramps up an impressive military modernization program.


South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”