In a landmark deal, Pakistan has handed thousands of acres of land over to China in order to build a special economic zone in Gwadar. Under the banner of the $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, China will further build an airport in the port city of Gwadar. The Balochistan government is leasing to China more than 2,300 acres of land for 43 years on a tax-exempt basis. And now the announcement of Chinese engineers building Pakistan’s largest airport has taken the partnership of the two countries to a whole new level.
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China to go all-out for Gwadar
CPEC and the respective development in Balochistan are a part of China’s broader Silk Road initiative. The Economic Corridor is set to link Western China to the Arabian Sea. This will benefit not only Pakistan but China to a great extent as well. Using the Arabian Sea for its trade purposes will lessen China’s over-reliance on trade routes in the disputed South China Sea, and this economic corridor will allow China to reach the oil-rich countries of the Middle East with ease. The port of Gwadar will cut down the trade route by thousands of kilometers.
The handing over of the land to China and the announcement of building Pakistan’s biggest airport took place during a ceremony on Nov. 11 at the Gwadar Port, which was chaired by Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal. Minister for Shipping Kamran Michael also attended the ceremony with Chinese Development Commission Vice Chairman Wang Xiaotao.
Chief Minister of Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik, while speaking on the occasion, revealed that an airport of international standards will be built in Gwadar with Chinese grants and expertise. He added that both China and Pakistan have wide plans for the development of Balochistan and for that, his government has provided the tax-free land to China for building an export processing zone. The construction of the airport will commence in January and take 30 months to complete. According to Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesperson for the Balochistan chief minister, more than 4,000 acres land have been reserved for the construction of the airport, and it will be the biggest airport in Pakistan, the Daily Times reported.
In order to link the airport with other areas of the economic zone and with the Gwadar seaport, China will also construct road networks. The provincial government has confirmed that it will provide Chinese authorities the land for the construction of roads to link the airport wherever necessary according to their needs.
During the ceremony, Ahsan Iqbal praised the Pak-China friendship as long-lasting and time-testing. He said that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be a game changer in not just regional politics but world politics as well. The people of Balochistan will benefit from it the most, and it will help Pakistan massively in economic terms.
Gwadar to define Pakistan’s economic aspirations
He added that the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, is looking over the matters related to the Gwadar Port personally and has assured all levels of support in order to develop the port as early as possible. Ahsan Iqbal termed the agreement of handing over land to China as a landmark deal and a major milestone. He added that this is the first step towards the implementation of the economic corridor and that the building of the new airport will further strengthen the CPEC project.
Ahsan Iqbal termed Gwadar as the heart of the CPEC project and said that handing over the Gwadar Port and the land to China means that this heart has now started beating. Speaking to media after the ceremony, the minister shed some light on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project. He rebuffed the general assumption that CPEC is just about infrastructure projects. He said that this project is a framework for future development and will put equal focus on the well-being of the people of the region. He said that through CPEC, not only Gwadar but other under developed areas of Balochistan will also benefit on equal terms.
A region with infinite potential
Further talking about CPEC, Iqbal said that this project is not a one-dimensional project, as it has many facets, such as infrastructure, warm water ports, energy, industry and social projects. CPEC will use multiple routes and corridors to connect Gwadar to China. Talking about the significance of the Gwadar Port, the minister said that the port will be of international standards and will serve different international markets and destinations. He further revealed that the Western route of the CPEC will be completed and become operational first, while the remaining work on the Gwadar-Quetta route would be finished by the end of next year.
Thanks to its geo-strategic location, Pakistan can become a hub of world trade through CPEC and the Gwadar Port in the coming years. CPEC will allow landlocked countries of Central Asia to gain access to the warm waters. Russia will also be a major beneficiary of this project. Pakistan is on course to become an energy and trade corridor and will connect various regions of the world, increasing cooperation among them in the future.