Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif attend the opening ceremony of a pilot trade project in Gwadar port. (Photo : Getty Images)
A new international trade route opened in Southwest Pakistan on Sunday, Nov. 13, with a Chinese ship sailing to export goods to the Middle East and Africa, providing an important gateway to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
A report by indianexpress.com said that the new trade route was developed in 2015 by China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of its 'One Belt, One Road' initiative as well as to deepen China- Pakistan economic ties.
China spent about $46 billion for the project, which is expected to provide the quickest route for energy resources from the Middle East to be transported to China, without having to pass the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea.
The project has been opposed by people from the poor region of Balochistan, which has long been in conflict with the Pakistan government, the report said.
The CPEC is one of the major projects of China under its 'One Belt, One Road' initiative, which aims to connect China with Europe and Africa, via the ancient Silk Road trade route. The project would connect Xinjiang in northwest China with Pakistan's Gwadar Port at the Arabian Sea.
The trade route passes through Kashmir territory occupied by Pakistan and the disputed region of Balochistan.
According to the report, Gwadar port can manage about 19 million tons of crude oil, which can be directly transferred to China through the new route.
The project was first conceived in the 1950's but political unrest in Pakistan has caused some delay in its completion. In Nov. 2014, the Chinese government announced to finance the project and work begun in April last year.
According to the report, Pakistan has reportedly received twice the amount from the multi-million dollar CPEC project than those from other foreign investments since 2008.
Pakistan has other benefits from the CPEC project as Chinese investment in the southwestern region is expected to bring change to the economy of the mineral-rich, yet poorest region of the country.
According to Pakistan, it will use China's $46-billion pledge to fund coal, nuclear and other renewable projects to generate about 17,000 megawatts of electricity at a cost of $34 billion.The rest of the money would be used to build transport infrastructure.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Balochistan Province will be developed and transformed into a regional hub for economic activities.
The report, however, said that Balochistan strongly opposes the investment. Nationalist groups in the region said that they do not benefit from development projects such as this and non-Balochs, especially the Punjabis, often get the job opportunities.
Other groups also protest the abduction of activists and suspected separatists by Pakistan's military forces. Between 2001 and 2013, about 18,000 have been reported missing, according to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IIVBMP), a group formed by families of missing people in Balochistan.
To assuage China's fears, the Pakistani government has reportedly set aside $250 million to build a new security force in the region.
Security has become the biggest concern of Chinese in the province. Foreigners, particularly the Chinese, have become targets of abductions and killings by separatists from the Baloch Liberation Army. A Chinese tourist was kidnapped in May 2014 in Dera Ismail Khan, a place near the Balochistan border and in March 2015, five oil tankers owned by Chinese companies were reportedly set on fire by separatists.
Meanwhile, India is unhappy with the CPEC project since it passes through the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his concerns about the project to President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting in September.
India signed a bilateral agreement with Iran to develop the Chabahar port, in response to Gwadar development project.