Gwadar: The Next Shenzhen?
Gwadar is booming. It's being called the next Shenzhen by some and the next Hong Kong by others as an emerging new port city in the region to rival Dubai. Land prices in Gwadar are skyrocketing, according to media reports. Gwadar Airport air traffic growth of 73% was the fastest of all airports in Pakistan where overall air traffic grew by 23% last year, according to Anna Aero publication. A new international airport is now being built in Gwadar to handle soaring passenger and cargo traffic.
|Recent Aerial View of Gwadar Hammerhead Growth|
Gwadar Property Boom:
The volume of Gwadar property searches surged 14-fold on Pakistan’s largest real estate database, Zameen.com, between 2014 and 2016, up from a prior rate of a few hundred a month. “It’s like a gold rush,” said Chief Executive Zeeshan Ali Khan to an Express Tribune newspaper reporter. “Anyone who is interested in real estate, be it an investor or a developer, is eyeing Gwadar.”
Chinese private investment company China Pak Investment Corporation has recently announced it is acquiring 3.6 million square foot International Port City project in Gwadar. It plans to develop a $150 million gated community to handle the influx of 500,000 Chinese professionals expected in Gwadar by 2022.
|Proposed Gwadar International Airport|
China Pak Investment Announcement:
On October 20, 2017, Pakistan's Geo TV news reported that China Pak Investment Company plans to increase its commitment to invest $500 million in Gwadar in the first phase of a project aimed at building homes for around 500,000 incoming Chinese professionals expected in Gwadar by 2023. An earlier September 29, 2017 press release by China Pak Investment Corporation said as follows:
"The final master plan for China Pak Hills is currently being refined in Hong Kong, and will feature a range of state-of-the-art amenities including an open-air shopping boulevard; indoor shopping mall; restaurants and eateries; an international school and nursery; six community parks; indoor and outdoor sports facilities including tennis courts and a resident's gymnasium; a water desalination plant and recycling centre. China Pak Hills will also be home to the Gwadar Financial District, catering to the growing financial sector and adding much needed A Grade office space to Gwadar's growing market."
Gwadar Port Development:
Gwadar port's planned capacity when it is completed will be 300 to 400 million tons of cargo annually. It is comparable to the capacity of all of India's ports combined annual capacity of 500 million tons of cargo today. It is far larger than the 10-12 million tons cargo handling capacity planned for Chabahar.
To put Gwadar's scale in perspective, let's compare it with the largest US port of Long Beach which handles 80 million tons of cargo, about a quarter of what Gwadar will handle upon completion of the project. Gawadar port will be capable of handling the world's largest container ships and massive oil tankers.
Gawadar port is being built in Pakistan by the Chinese as part of the ambitious $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will eventually serve as Hong Kong West for growing Chinese trade with the Middle East and Europe. CPEC will also enable Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan to trade with Central Asia through China across China's borders with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
India's Strong Opposition:
Chinese Commitment to Pakistan:
Unlike US-Pakistan ties that have been essentially of a transactional nature, Pakistan-China relationship appears to truly strategic. A recent book "The China Pakistan Axis: Asia's New Geopolitics" by American policy analyst Andrew Small quotes a top Chinese official as saying to his American counterparts that "Pakistan is China's Israel". Earlier, in 2011, some news reports quoted Chinese officials as warning that "any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China". Growing Chinese investment commitments in Pakistan now exceed $100 billion, a further indication of the importance China attaches to Pakistan as one of its closest allies.
China-Pakistan ties appear to be truly strategic. The strength of Chinese commitment to Pakistan is increasing with growing investments in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor related projects. It is now highly visible in terms of the influx of the Chinese money and citizens into Pakistan. China's actions on the ground reinforce the credibility of Chinese officials' reported quotes describing Pakistan as "China's Israel" and warnings to the United States that "any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China".