BACKGROUND: Pakistan has handed over 2,281 acres of tax-exempt land adjacent to Gwadar port to China on a 43-year lease. This is part of the ambitious US $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which envisages linking China’s trading hub of Kashgar to the Arabian Sea via a network of roads, railways, oil and gas pipelines and fiber optic cables. The project also involves setting up power generation projects and special economic zones (SEZs) en route. The operator of Gwadar port, the China Overseas Port Holding Company, will develop an SEZ on the leased land.
The CPEC project has begun to inch forward. However, problems loom. The security situation in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province is volatile. This is of concern to Pakistan and China as Baluchistan holds the key to the project’s success. It is in Baluchistan that Gwadar port, which is the heart of the CPEC project and the gateway to the corridor, is located and it is through this insurgency-wracked province that much of the western route of the Gwadar-Kashgar corridor runs. In a bid to alleviate apprehensions over the fragile security situation in Baluchistan, Pakistani has promised to deploy a 10,000-strong special force to beef up security for CPEC’s infrastructure and workforce. It will also step up military operations against armed groups operating in the province.