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'China's take over Gwadar port not aimed at India'

February 01, 2013 21:50 IST

China's take over of Pakistan's strategic Gwadar port is not aimed at ‘encircling’ India, but the move is crucial to the country's economic interests as it gives western China access to the Arabian Sea to access oil supplies from the Gulf, official Chinese media said on Friday.

"Not surprisingly, China's intentions in taking over GwadarPort have been interpreted through a military perspective. Many analysts from the West and India believe that China harbours the intention to build naval bases there," a commentary posted on the state-run Global Times website said.

"Chinese operational control of Gwadar has seemingly set off alarm bells in India as it feels it is being encircled by China. The Chinese presence in Gwadar has also been seen as a threat to the US fleet in the Middle East."

"In fact, China is not so powerful, nor is India so weak, so as to make it possible that the transfer of a mere civil project can ‘encircle’ India," it said.

Gwadar Port is in a critical strategic location: It is at the apex of the Arabian Sea and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and only about 400 km away from the Strait of Hormuz, a key global oil supply route.

The port will be of crucial economic interest to China because it gives western China access to the sea, it said. It will also benefit a large part of the oil trade of China, which is the second largest oil importer in the world.

"If a pipeline connecting the port to western China is built, the shortest route for oil imports from the Middle East can be realised. The port will also give a great boost to developing China's vast western areas," it said.

Pakistan today approved a deal that transfers operational control of GwadarPort from Singapore's PSA International to Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited.

An earlier write up in the same daily said China agreed to take over the Gwadar port in volatile Baluchistan despite security risks because of the project's strategic value. Beijing has been working to develop a string of harbours in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, a region traditionally considered an Indian backyard.

China has funded ports in Sri Lanka and has been approached to help build a port in Bangladesh. The Singapore company which left GwadarPort ‘put more value in the commercial benefits in operating the port. But for China, its strategic values is greater than the commercial significance’, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Centre for Energy Economics Research at XiamenUniversity said.

"I do believe China will build the port at the astonishing 'Chinese speed' to materialise the port's strategic values," he said. Lin believed that the injection of Chinese investment could soon vitalise the port with strategic importance.

On Thursday Chinese Foreign ministry Spokesman, Hong Lei defended China's decision to take over the port operations it is part of the continued cooperation between the two countries.

"China and Pakistan are friendly neighbours. Chinese companies have long been actively participating in Pakistan's foreign cooperation projects in all fields," he said when asked about Pakistan's decision to hand it over the China.

China will actively support cooperation in all areas as long as it is good for China- Pakistan friendship and the development and prosperity of Pakistan, Hong said.  

K J M Varma in Beijing
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