The geo-strategic positioning of this region is changing fast; strategic realignment is in the offing as Pakistan is inching towards Russia and China, whereas India and Iran are coming closer by the day. Old loyalties are fast eroding and the enemies of yesteryear are continuously forging new alliances, whereas ages old friendships are coming to a brisk halt. The importance of the two strategic ports, namely Chabahar and Gwadar, has increased manifold because of this ever- changing situation in the region.
Gwadar is strategic warm water deep seaport located on the Southwestern coast of Pakistan and is poised to become the backbone of the ambitious CPEC project. Gwadar’s importance is enhanced even further because of its close proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, which is one of the most frequently used maritime routes of oil supply by the Middle Eastern countries. Also, it is located at a distance of 75 km from the Iranian port of Chabahar, thereby bringing it in direct competition with the Iranian port.
Gwadar’s significance is huge for China, as 60% of all oil supplies to China are made from Gulf and currently it takes the ships to travel 16000km to reach the port of Chinghai by covering a three-month long journey. Gwadar can thus provide China a quicker access to Gulf oil. This can add to the national security of China by a great deal, as access to oil is fundamental in any event of war in the East.
Most importantly, the recent cordiality ensued between Russia and Pakistan can play a great role in increasing Gwadar’s importance as Russia has always dreamed of gaining access to the warm waters of Arabian Sea. Therefore, if relations between Russia and Pakistan are solidified even further, it would allow the two countries to increase their volumes in trade quite significantly. Additionally, Pakistan can provide Russia with access to the warm waters of Arabian Sea through Gwadar. This can mean a huge deal for the Russian businessmen and military alike as Gwadar is not only a deep-sea port with enormous commercial potential but also has considerable naval bearings as well. Russian businessmen can export and import their goods towards African and other Asian states through Gwadar, thereby giving them the leverage of exploring new markets and improving their failing economic conditions.
Likewise, Russian military can utilize the refueling and maintenance facilities at Gwadar if an understanding is forged between the Navies of the two countries. Russia has always wanted that its naval presence is expanded in the Indian Ocean so that it can counter the ever-increasing American influence in the region. However due to lack of any strategic partner it has not been able to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, with the advent of the rising Russo-Pak cooperation, Russian Navy’s capabilities can be amplified manifold under this arrangement. If Russia is able to use Gwadar Port’s Naval facilities it can project itself onto the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, further in the Indian Ocean towards the East and so forth.
On the other hand, Pakistan can benefit enormously from this arrangement as Pakistan’s Navy fleet is quite timeworn and needs up-gradation. Moreover, since the Pak-USA relations are heading towards hitting their lowest ebb, Pakistani Navy can strike a working relationship with the Russians instead and try to upgrade its fleet against the rising threat from the Eastern Border. Therefore, it is in the interest of the Russian Navy to forge a strategic alliance with Pakistan as it can become a symbiotic relationship and benefit both the countries.
Hence, it can be seen that Gwadar Port has multifaceted significance and can prove to be a huge turning point for the entire region, not only commercially but militarily as well.