Gwadar

Gwadar is located on the southwestern coast of Pakistan, close to the Strait of Hormuz on the Persian Gulf. More than 13 million bbl/d of oil pass through the Strait. It is strategically located between three increasingly important regions: the oil-rich Middle East, heavily populated South Asia and the economically emerging and resource-laden region of Central Asia. The Gwadar Port is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenues and create at least two million jobs.[2] In 2007, the government of Pakistan handed over port operations to PSA Singapore for 25 years, and gave it the status of a Tax Free Port for the following 40 years. There is also money invested into the port by the People’s Republic of China. The strategic PRC plan to be engaged in many places along oil and gas roads is evident.

History

The Makran region surrounding Gwadar was occupied by an ancient Bronze age people which settled in the few oases. It later became the Gedrosia region of the Achaemenid Persian empire. It is believed to have been conquered by the founder of the Persian empire, Cyrus the Great. The capital of the satrapy of Gedrosia was Pura, which is thought to have been located near the modern Bampûr, in Iranian Balochistan. During the homeward march of Alexander the Great, his admiral, Nearchus, led a fleet along the modern-day Makran coast and recorded that the area was dry, mountainous, and inhabited by the Ichthyophagoi (or “fish eaters”), an Greek rendering of the ancient Persian phrase “Mahi khoran” (which has itself become the modern word “Makran”). [4] After the collapse of Alexander’s empire the area was ruled by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals. The region then came under “local rule” around about 303 BC.

The region remained on the sidelines of history for a millennium, until the Arab-Muslim army of Muhammad bin Qasim captured the town of Gwadar in AD 711 and over the intervening (and nearly equivalent) amount of time the area was contested by various powers, including the Mughals (from the east) and the Safavids (from the west). Portuguese explorers captured and sacked Gwadar in the late 16th Century and this was then followed by almost two centuries of local rule by the various Balochi tribes. In 1783, the Khan of Kalat granted suzeranity over Gwadar to Taimur Sultan, the defeated ruler of Muscat. [5] When the Sultan subsequently retook Muscat, he was to continue his rule in Gwadar by appointing a wali (or “governor”). This wali was then ordered to subjugate the nearby coastal town of Chah Bahar (in modern-day Iran), which … The Gwadari fort was built during Omani rule, whilst telegraph lines were later extended into the town courtesy of HRM of the British.

In 1958, the Gwadar enclave was transferred to Pakistan. It was then made part of the Balochistan province In 2002, the Gwadar Port project (of building a large, deep-sea port) was begun in the town. The government of Pakistan intends to develop the entire area in order to reduce its reliance in shipping on the port of Karachi. In addition to expanding port facilities, the Project aims to build industrial complexes in the area and to connect the town via a modern highway to the rest of Pakistan. By the end of 2004 the first phase had been completed.

Culture

Gwadar’s location and history have given it a unique blend of cultures. The Arabic influence upon Gwadar is strong as a consequence of the Omani era and the close proximity of other Arab-majority regions. The legacy of the Omani slave trade is observed in the population by the presence of residents which can trace their descent from the African slaves who were trafficked through the town (en route to destinations in the Muslim Far East. The area also has a remarkable religious diversity, being home to not only Sunni muslims, but also to groups of Christians, Hindus, Parsis, and various minor Islamic sects such as the Qadianis. Among the more important of the religious sects is the Zikri sect, a faith which approximately one-half of Gwadaris profess.

Transport

Gwadar is located on the Gulf of Oman close to the entrance of the Persian Gulf, about 460 kilometres west of Karachi. In 1993, Pakistan started feasibility studies for the development of a major deepwater seaport at Gwadar. The port project commenced on 22 March 2002 with the first phase completed in December 2005.

The construction of the port has spurred other major infrastructure projects in the area. This includes the 700 km Makran Coastal Highway which is now complete. The road links Karachi with several ports along the coast including Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar and will be extended to the Iranian border in the future. The highway has reduced travel time to Karachi from 48 hours to only 7 hours. Other road projects include the Gwadar-Quetta-Chaman road which is due for completion in 2006 and a roadlink to the town of Khuzdar in eastern Balochistan. There are also plans for a terminal for passenger ships.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan has earmarked 3000 acres (12 km²) of land for Gwadar International Airport which will be built 26 km away to the northeast of the existing airport towards Pasni and is likely to cost between $200-250 million. The new airport will be given international status and operate under the open sky policy. In the meantime there are plans to improve facilities at the existing airport.

Port Operations

Port of Singapore was scheduled to take over management of Gwadar Port by the end of January 2007. Port of Singapore was the highest bidder for the Gwadar port after DP World backed out of the bidding process. Originally, the chairman of Dubai Ports World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, who met President Pervez Musharraf on May 5th 2006, expressed a strong hope for management of facilities at the strategic Gwadar deep sea port and development of infrastructure in the southern port city and elsewhere in Pakistan. But a decision was taken not to bid, after India’s National Security Council voiced concerns about DP World’s ventures in India, alongside its plans in Pakistan, and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem assured the Indians their pull-out was well considered and India need not have any security concerns. The port is now compeed with that of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.