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Along the road – Gwadar and China’s power projection

31 July 2018


Frédéric Grare


> The construction of the Gwadar port and the Chinese presence on the shores of the Arabian Sea highlight a new geostrategic dynamic and is likely to affect the regional balance of power.

> Pakistani officials have always claimed that the port has no strategic purpose; but without economic integration with the only promising market in the region, India, the military use of the port remains the only rationale.

> The port increases China’s leverage in
the Strait of Hormuz and will embolden Islamabad to continue with its destabilising policies in the region.

> The European External Action Service could initiate a dialogue with Beijing about its activities in the Indian Ocean in general and Gwadar in particular.

Gwadar port’s economic and strategic viabil-
ity rely on Pakistan’s political stability, something
which can less and less be taken for granted. Given
the evolution of the relationship between Beijing
and Islamabad, information regarding the reality of
the supposed benefits that Pakistan is likely to get
from China through CPEC are likely to slow down
the development of the Gwadar port. There is also
an urgent need to start a dialogue with Beijing
about its intentions in the Indian Ocean in general,
and Gwadar in particular. Such a dialogue, led by
the European External Action Service, possibly at
the highest level, would signal European concerns
about Chinese activities in the region to Beijing. A
parallel dialogue on a similar theme with the US
and within NATO might also be explored as an
additional measure through which to handle the
The larger picture should also be taken in consid-
eration. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, the recipe for
China’s ‘success’ in selling its narrative is a combi-
nation of domestic economic and political weak-
ness coupled with an authoritarian or semi-au-
thoritarian regime. Beijing promises to help solve
economic challenges without forcing changes
within the regime. In reality, the strengthening of
authoritarian elements is the precondition for ad-
ministering China’s economic ‘cure’ – which in fact
usually causes further harm through an explosion
of national debt. This is precisely the m.....that Europeans should denounce. It will not solve the problem entirely, but highlighting the fact that China is not bringing development to Pakistan but pursuing its own strategic objectives while con- solidating the power of the military should dimin- ish the political space in which Beijing and the Pakistani military operate.


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