The port city of Gwadar is of vital strategic importance for two reasons. The first of these is simply geographical; its position on the coast of the Arabian Sea makes Gwadar the western most port in the whole of Pakistan, a country which, considering its size, has only a relatively short coastline. In addition to this the location of Gwadar is just 75km east of the Pakistan border with Iran, making the city a logical place for the development of links between Pakistan and western China as well as countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The fact that it sits in close proximity to the Gulf of Oman and the strategic ‘choke point’ of the Strait of Hormuz (through which an estimated 20% of the world’s petroleum passes) means that Gwadar is likely to play a role in the global energy market for many years to come.
The factors listed above would have limited bearing, however, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Pakistan government commissioned a survey of the coastline to be carried out in 1954. The survey, which was conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), reported that the peninsula of Gwadar was the ideal spot for the development of a deep sea port. At the time, Gwadar was little more than a picturesque fishing village, but the prospect of a deep sea port opened up the possibility of it being transformed into a major global city. It was that possibility which prompted the government of Pakistan to purchase Gwadar from Oman.
Following the survey which revealed the potential for a deep-sea port, the Pakistan government entered into negotiations with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Said bin Taimur, which lasted for four years and led to Pakistan purchasing Gwadar in 1958 for a price of $3 million. In today’s terms, that equates to approximately $22,410,311.
Although some of the money used to purchase Gwadar came from tax revenues, much of it was raised via donations from wealthy individuals. The purchase came with conditions attached, and one of these conditions was that Gwadar should be the site of further development. Although the purchase of Gwadar, and its accession to Pakistan, was officially announced by the then Prime Minister on 7th September 1958, this development took a while to get off the ground. The plan to develop a deep sea port, and to connect Gwadar to the wider Pakistani road and rail networks, wasn’t drawn up until 1993, and actual construction on the deep sea port didn’t commence until 22nd March 2002. In spite of this, however, progress was relatively swift and the Gwadar deep sea port was opened on 20 March 2007.