China's ambitious project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for access to the Arabian Sea is yet to see the light of day. The CPEC, a part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was supposed to connect occupied East Turkestan with Gwadar. India Today OSINT team, through latest satellite imagery, analyses the Chinese efforts at developing this port.
China's ambitious project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for access to the Arabian Sea is yet to see the light of day. The CPEC, a part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was supposed to connect occupied East Turkestan with Gwadar.
The Gwadar Port development project that started two decades ago has not yet begun full operations.
The India Today OSINT team, through latest satellite imagery, analyses the Chinese efforts at developing this port.
The satellite images of September 23, 2020 from Google Earth indicate that the progress on widening of road through Tombolo on the western side has been stopped.
Pakistan's much-hyped Gwadar Port was leased on a long-term basis of 45 years to a Chinese state-owned company.
The project has been developed by the Chinese government with military advantage of having a People's Liberation Army (PLA) base opening into the Arabian Sea.
Gwadar Port's strategic geographic location lends it the benefit of monitoring all sea lines of communications (SLOC) passing through the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The completion of this CPEC project and Gwadar Port would allow China to increase its trade by a trillion dollars.
The Chinese initiatives to exploit mineral wealth of Balochistan were clearly understood by the locals, including the Pakistan army.
The China Metallurgical Group Corporation received a contract in the 1990s to extract gold and copper from the Saindak mine in Balochistan. Such projects are exploitation of the mineral resources of Balochistan, allege Baloch nationalists.
The resistance from Baloch people and the Pakistan army was clearly indicated even by senior army officers up to the rank of Corps Commanders
The Chinese have started reclaiming more than 100m of the land strip on the eastern side of the shingle. The work is seen progressing at a regular pace in most of the reclaimed area.
However, the work near the old fishing pier has stopped possibly due to the locals placing their boats to hamper the work.
There is no progress on the port itself except that three smaller cranes were earlier replaced with larger cranes.
The shipping traffic has reduced to almost zero. The containers and crates strewn around did not during the entire pandemic and have shifted a bit after July 2020.
The Pakistan navy frigates and other vessels are seen frequenting this port very often. The latest satellite image shows an F-22 Zulfiqar-class frigate parked there.
There is no progress observed on dredging this year at all. The breakwater north of the fishing pier is not seen in latest satellite images, indicating waves rising above it.
The satellite images of the new international airport area do not show much progress either.
The only activity observed over the last six months is the new barracks built for the Chinese airport construction staff.
The surprising part is this area has been fenced with four layers of security. The inner three layers are solid fences and the outer is a wire fence.
The entry is heavily guarded with a small opening compared to such construction facilities elsewhere in Pakistan or in China.
The satellite images parsed over the last five months indicate a very suspicious activity opposite the PLA base west of the port area.
An area of 1.25 acres with 500m perimeter has been occupied by some cargo which is probably camouflaged.
The complete area looks filled with high-speed growing trees. However, the trees planted since last year next to them have not shown any growth.
The growth observed within four months is surprising and raises doubts.
(Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) is a consultant for India Today. A satellite imagery analyst, he served in the Indian Army for over 33 years).