Despite the Pakistan Government commissioning work on Gwadar Port in 2002, early development was delayed due to chronic instability in the adjacent province of Balochistan. However, since China announced the plan to build the economic corridor in 2014, security in Gwadar has improved hugely: Pakistan has created a new army division to ensure protection and hundreds of rebels have surrendered arms.
Gwadar in 2016
As the gateway to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Gwadar has been given a new Pakistan Naval task force for the defence of its port and there is also the potential for Chinese naval forces to contribute to its security. The new task force, TF-88, is believed to be equipped with drones, aerial surveillance aircraft and missile boats and it mirrors a special security force set up for the defence of shore side facilities. Two Pakistan Navy warships are already based at Gwadar and the service is said to be in talks with Turkish and Chinese yards for the construction of four to six new smaller multirole vessels for near-coastal defence.
When Pakistani officials first planned the port project at Gwadar in 2011, they proposed that it would be a naval base for Chinese warships. As a naval base, Gwadar could affect the region’s balance of power: it lies roughly 330 nautical miles (nm) from the strategic Strait of Hormuz and about 680 nm from the Indian Navy’s main base at Mumbai – less than a day’s voyage for a modern destroyer. The main responsibility for securing the corridor, which is vital to Pakistan’s long-term prosperity, lies with a new army division established in the previous few months and estimated at 13,000 troops.
Gwadar in 2017
Gwadar Port ‘post CPEC’, is expected to be a trade hub. This might cause concern for some of its adjacent countries, in particular, India. Indian analysts believe that whichever country controls the Indian Ocean also controls Asia. They also believe that no other regional powers should have any influence in what they consider to be their backyard. Therefore, the Indian Government will be very alert to the Chinese, Pakistan alliance and the development of Gwadar.
As maritime traffic in and out of Gwadar Port is expected to increase exponentially and the success of CPEC depends on maritime security, Pakistan’s Naval Special Task Force-88 are positioning security guards in key locations, carrying out coastal surveillance and increasing awareness of maritime domains in the region by the deployment of law enforcement agencies. Other issues that need to be addressed in the Indian Ocean include human trafficking and piracy. Therefore, the Navy is prioritising: the security of ships, sea lanes and Gwadar Port.
On land, a Special Security Division (SSD) comprising 9,000 Pakistani soldiers and 6,000 paramilitary personnel has been set up to maintain security along the western route and in Gwadar. A recent trial run of a convoy of trucks successfully reached the Port without incident.
It is clear that CPEC has and will continue to, influence the level and effectiveness of security in Pakistan.