China took over management on Monday of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, en route to key Hormuz Straits oil shipping lanes, in a move which has prompted nerves in India about its fellow Asian giant’s growing strategic clout.
China financed more than 80 per cent of the US$248 million development cost of the port on the Arabian Sea, as part of a plan to open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China.
When complete, the port could be used by the Chinese Navy, analysts say, and Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony told reporters on February 6 that Chinese control of the port was “a matter of concern.”
Indian policy-makers are wary of a string of strategically located ports being built by Chinese companies in its neighbourhood, as India beefs up its military clout to compete.
China has also funded ports in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, and Chittagong in Bangladesh, both India’s neighbours.
After a signing ceremony on Monday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he hoped Gwadar would soon be a “hub of trade and commerce in the region”.
In January, Pakistan’s cabinet approved the transfer of Gwadar port from Singapore’s PSA International to Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited.