Islamabad, Feb. 18: Pakistan on Monday formally awarded the contract for the operation of Gwadar port and the building of infrastructure around it to China amid serious concerns by India over the deal.
The contract signing ceremony was held in the Presidency today with President Asif Ali Zardari hailing it as another leap forward in Pakistan-China relationship and an auspicious day in the history Islamabad-Beijing time-tested ties.
Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the ceremony held today actually marked the transfer of Concession Agreement from the Port of Singapore Authority to the China Overseas Port Holding Company.
Gawadar will soon be a “hub of trade and commerce in the region”, the President remarked adding, “it holds the key to bring together the countries of Central Asia” and lending “new impetus to Pakistan China relations.
The President also highlighted the strategic significance of the port for China and central Asian republics and its potential of integrating the economies of the countries in the region. The Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet are closer to Pakistani ports than to the ports in China the President said and added that the development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East via Gwadar Port held “huge promise”.
About the project’s strategic importance for China the President said that nearly 60 per cent of China’s crude oil was imported from the Gulf countries which would increase in the next decade.
Because of the proximity of the Gulf countries to Gwadar the oil flow from the Gulf to China would be greatly facilitated by the operation of this port, he said.
Defence Minister A.K.Antony had recently expressed serious concerns over award of the deep-sea port contract by Pakistan to China, which has involvement in a number of other projects around India.
However, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan had dismissed the concerns last week and said @We think that this is not something that any other country should have any reason to be concerned about."
The contract had earlier been awarded to Singapore despite payment of around 75 percent of the initial $250 million by China. Analysts believed that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf did it apparently to appease the United States.
Pakistan's cooperation with China in defence field dates back to 1960s when Beijing helped Islamabad set up Heavy Industries and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. China also generously helped Pakistan build its capacity to indigenously manufacture military hardware in addition to supplying much needed equipment such as combat aircraft and helicopters, warships. China also helped Pakistan develop two nuclear power plants, each of 300 megawatts capacity at Chashma town.