On February 19, 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping and Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain, who is on his first overseas visit signed an agreement to develop the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a huge development project. The fact that Beijing was chosen as the destination for newly elected President’s first overseas visit shows China’s significance for Pakistan. According to Chinese and Pak analysts the economic corridor has the potential of transforming the whole region by generating massive trade and economic activity and opening new vistas of progress. The project entails building a new airport at the Gwadar Port, upgrading Karakoram Highway and building railways and pipelines through rugged mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, constitutionally and legally an integral part of India. 2000 km long corridor will connect Kashgar in Xinjiang province of China to Gwadar Deep Sea Port in Balochistan.
Last year on February 18, Pakistan Government had signed an agreement with the China Overseas Port Holding Authority (COPHA), where by the operations of Gwadar Deep Sea Port were taken over from Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and handed over to the Chinese. The Chinese company has planned to invest $ 750 million to enhance the capacity of the port and improve its infrastructure. This is expected to provide boost to the economic activity in and around the much hyped port, which has been an economic disaster till now. PSA was accused of not taking enough interest to develop the necessary infrastructure to connect the port with hinterland through road and railway network.
The port, whose construction began in November 2002, was completed in March 2007 and was declared to be fully functional, when a ship carrying fertilizers from Qatar anchored there on December 21, 2008. The then Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Nabil Ahmed Gabol and Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani had attended the ceremony to mark the opening of the port and had proclaimed that it would trigger all round economic development in the region. Gwadar Port has technically eliminated Pakistan’s critical dependence on Karachi-Bin Qasim complex for maritime trade, as they were quite vulnerable to any blockade or disaster. However, since then Gwadar has failed to live up to the expectations of being an energy corridor for Central Asia, Middle East, South Asia and parts of West Asia. Consequently, some sceptics have been questioning the port’s economic viability.
The port was set up after the Asian Development Bank’s Ports Master Plan studies considered Gwadar to be the ideal location for handling mother ships and large oil tankers, to capture trans-shipment trade of the region and to emerge as an alternative to the Persian Gulf Ports.
China can use this port to supply energy to its hinterland without having to worry about its oil supplies being choked in the straits of South-East Asia. China has plans to develop a two lane highway from Gwadar to Gilgit. with oil and gas pipe lines and. Plans are also afoot for a rail link between Pakistan and China by extending the railroad from Tibet to facilitate a faster movement of cargo and tourists between the two countries. The port built with Chinese assistance has been the largest infrastructural project undertaken in Pakistan.
Gwadar with a 20 metre deep approach channel is the deepest port of Pakistan and can take in oil tankers having a capacity of 200,000 dwt and bulk carriers upto 100,000 dwt. So the moot question is that despite such huge potential, why has Gwadar failed to deliver? The answer lies in the fact that Gwadar cannot emerge as a bridgehead to Central Asia till it is connected to Quetta by road or rail. So Gwadar’s potential to become the future trade and energy hub for the growing economies of West, South and East Asia and the landlocked Central Asian Republics depends on cutting down transportation costs and time from Xinjiang province to the port.
The most serious impediment to the potential of this port is the continuing insurgency in Balochistan and to some extent the violence in Gilgit-Baltistan. Not only does violence affect the investor confidence, it also affects the implementation of infrastructural projects, especially the pipelines, roads and rail links, which cannot be defended all along all the time. Eventually, Pakistan’s handling of discontentment in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan will decide the ultimate viability of Gwadar Port Project because as far as access to Central Asia is concerned, it has to get off the block fast because Chah Bahar is also coming up and can give Gwadar a run for its money.
Baloch nationalists perceive Gwadar as an instrument of Islamabad to colonise their land. They feel that all the decisions pertaining Gwadar are being taken outside Balochistan. As Gwadar has been connected to Karachi and not the Baloch hinterland, they suspect a massive migration of outsiders in the region, which would turn Baloch into a permanent minority in their traditional homeland and as a result they have been targeting all the works and workers associated with Gwadar. They have specifically targeted Chinese interests as they perceive that China is facilitating Islamabad’s game plan of colonising their land. Baloch opposition has prevented the port from becoming an economically viable commercial port.
However, the port has provided Pakistan Navy a strategic depth South-West from its main naval base in Karachi. More significantly, with the handing over of the port to the Chinese, it will provide Beijing with a strategic outpost close to the Straits of Hormuz, through which more than 13 million barrels of oil passes each day. Though primarily built as a commercial port, the port can be used by Pakistan Navy as well as Chinese Navy and any worthwhile naval presence at the port can easily be used to interdict any ship leaving or entering the Gulf. The port, by design or by default, provides China a strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and will enable China to monitor all energy shipments from the Persian Gulf. Most of India’s energy imports from the Gulf pass very close to Gwadar and could be disrupted by any maritime power based there.
Gwadar undoubtedly, has enormous economic potential and could easily rival Dubai and transform the landscape of Balochistan but the port cannot achieve its potential as long as the restive population of Balochistan does not feel enthusiastic about it. Pakistan pins great hopes on Gwadar and expects it to become a gateway to Central Asia and Afghanistan. The successful operation of this port will result in enormous benefits to Pakistan and may provide China with a crucial outpost in the Persian Gulf.
Fiji Hindus unite to celebrate their country
The first ever gathering of Hindus to celebrate their contribution to Fiji will be held in Nadi in April. The conference will be held on April 12 and 13 at the Tanoa International Hotel. Organisers of the event—the Vishva Hindu Parishad Fiji or World Hindu Council of Fiji—emphasised that the first Fiji National Hindu Conference was not a religious or philosophical meeting but rather, a community conference.The theme is “The contribution of the Hindu community in strengthening and building Fiji” and it will cover economic, health, environmental, social and cultural aspects. The conference will provide a platform for all Hindu organisations, temples and like-minded groups to showcase their contributions to Fijian society in general and Hindu society in particular.
Is Yoga the secret to Olympic Gold?
Instead of going to Disney World after winning gold in the women’s snowboarding slope style event, Jamie Anderson said she’ll be headed to Wanderlust — a yoga retreat on the North Shore of Oahu — to celebrate.
Anderson credits yoga practice with helping her stay physically and mentally strong, and she’s not the only one who feels that way in Sochi. In fact, we discovered so many Olympians-cum-yogis that if the United States Yoga Federation ever succeeds in making Yoga Asana, or posture Yoga, an official Olympic sport, we’ll most likely see some cross-sport competitors.
Women athletes aren’t the only ones benefiting from Yoga. America’s coed luge team, for instance, is partnering with Indian rival Shiva Keshavan in order to gain stretching tips. “Yoga is something we have had with the team for a few years now,” US coach Mark Grimmette has said, “but Shiva and his wife know Yoga well so they have been facilitating those sessions.”
Houses of Hindus set on fire in Bangladesh
Severn houses belonging to minority Hindus in Bangladesh were set on fire by Muslim miscreants on February 23 at Nilphamari district. The Bangladesh Minority Watch (BDMW) said the houses were set on fire due to religious intolerance. The police said that one suspected accused Shahela Begum (45), wife of Shoharab Ali along with others, is responsible for the incident. The houses belong to Trailaikya Chandra Roy, a freedom fighter who live with his wife Shymoli Rani Roy, a teacher in Government Primary school.
BDME demanded that the perpetrators responsible for the crime should be arrested forthwith and the victims now under the sky should be rehabilitated and their houses so far damaged due to fire should be repaired. Compensation to the surviving victims should also be given by the local administration.