Jawad Falak l

A ship carrying 16,400 tonnes of DAP fertiliser for Afghanistan anchored at the Gwadar Port on 30 May. The ship brought fertiliser from Australia under the Pak-Afghan Transit Trade Agreement. This is the first time Gwadar port is being used for import of urea by the Afghan government. The port of Gwadar is becoming prominent in the affairs of the subcontinent day by day. However there is a campaign to highlight Gwadar in the media in a different mostly negative manner. India’s premier news agency ANI recently posted an article that claimed Gwadar was turning into a Chinese military base. The entire premise are satellite photos of a heavily secure compound. The headlines seems to be sensationalist as the article does not give any proof for its assertion but uses the term “probable” for its future use. Their entire premise is that such a compound can be used only for military purposes which automatically translates into projection of Chinese military power

Furthermore while the article uses a Forbes article to validate its assertions but ignores the latter’s alternative explanation for the unusual security preparations being to secure against from attacks from BSN terrorist groups. It has skipped the attack on Chinese interests such as the 12 May 2019 attack on Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar as well as other Chinese interests which have been mentioned in the Forbes report. Interestingly, the article itself negates an assertion of Chinese military personnel being deployed when it alludes to the false rumor floated in 2017 of Chinese marines to be deployed on Pakistani soil.

The ANI news report seems nothing more than a propaganda piece aimed at fear mongering about Chinese presence in Pakistan through CPEC and Gwadar port.       It ties in with Indian claims of a String of pearls that will solidify Chinese presence in the Arabian sea and adjoining areas.  Such claims have been made in order to infiltrate into Western media discourse through opinion pieces by Indian academics. An example is a brief appearing in the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in April 2018. The article “Pakistan’s Gwadar Port: A New Naval Base in China’s String of Pearls in the Indo-Pacific”  while appearing in a US based think tank has been written by an Indian Brig ® Gurmeet Singh who heads a right wing military Indian think tank CLAWS and uses Indian rhetoric on many issues.

The author has attacked CPEC and Chinese development of Gwadar port by viewing it through the Western lens. Western strategic community is consistently attacking Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it poses an alleged threat to Western hegemony throughout  the world. CPEC being a main pillar in the BRI is being demonized through excuses such as Debt trap, oversea militarization efforts by China and public safety.

The author tries to add a new Indian fear, that of the so-called String of Pearls, which portrays an entrenchment of Chinese strategic outreach in Global South.  Natalie Klein is a Professor of International Law at UNSW Sydney’s Faculty of Law, Australia in her piece on the Diplomat magazine negated assertions about the String of Pearls concept. She states that Chinese control of ports in other states, even those Beijing “owns”, will always remain limited. This is the same case for Gwadar

The article has taken the liberty of using the BLA (a US proscribed terror organization) as the sole representative of the Baloch people in Pakistan. This points towards a biasness on part of the author who has not taken the viewpoint of others such as elected Baloch representatives or even people from Gwadar and adjoining areas.

The author then tries to use Chinese strategic outreach as an excuse for Indian militarization of the IOR. This seems in line with Indian propaganda that India is increasing military activities in the region as an excuse to defend against an increased Chinese presence. The author has tried to use CPEC, BRI and Gwadar as an excuse to sell the String of Pearls rhetoric to Western audiences by cashing in on their constructed fears over the BRI.

Security for Chinese interests is taken as an excuse to promote fears of Chinese militarization of South Asia and the Middle East. While the fact of the matter is that Pakistan is responsible for the security of CPEC and related assets. For this purpose it is raising a Special Security Division which will oversee the safety of the whole project. In the end the ANI article seems nothing more than an attempt to hoist the illusion of a hostile China taking over vulnerable nations.

Jawad Falak is an MPhil student at National Defence University, Islamabad and is a resident research associate at Maritime Study Forum. Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Info Corridor.

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