Recently there have been reports that China is building a second naval base abroad, one in Pakistan. However, it is important to distinguish facts from instinctive speculation, especially when so far there is a shortage of solid evidence to suggest that this is true. To answer the question in the headline, it is natural that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) makes plans to establish facilities abroad to support their assets, because that is what the military do. The real question, then, is whether China is promulgating concrete plans at this time to build a base on Pakistani soil. It is undeniable that China will gradually establish more naval facilities on the periphery of the Indian Ocean. Even the Pentagon's annual report entitled 'Military and security developments involving the People's Republic of China 2017 & # 39; He predicted that China will establish an additional foreigner "in countries with which it has a long-standing friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for housing foreign armies."
While the USA UU they did not name Gwadar, this location has been touted as the probable location of a second base for China. The Pentagon added that "a more solid base and logistics infrastructure abroad would also be essential to allow China to project and maintain military power over greater distances."
Where in Pakistan?
The Washington-based The Daily Caller published an op-ed on January 1 in which it stated: "In the past two weeks, meetings between senior Chinese and Pakistani military officials indicate that a A new Chinese military installation on the Jiwani Peninsula between Gwadar and the Iranian border is said to include a naval base and an expansion of the existing airport on the peninsula, both requiring the establishment of a security zone and the forced relocation of residents of Balochi for a long time. "
The distance between the port of Gwadar and Jiwani is about 60 km and another 20 km to the Iranian border. However, the report was sparse on the details that support this claim of a PLA base. In fact, given the investment that China is putting into Gwadar, is it likely to establish a base so far and so close to the border? Iran, on the other hand, would not be in love with the idea.
To date, this claim from a Chinese naval base in Jiwani remains isolated. However, another voice that adds weight to the establishment of a Chinese base near Gwadar is a story of the South China Morning Post published on January 5. It included this statement: "Another source close to the People's Liberation Army confirmed that the navy would establish a base near Gwadar similar to the one that is already operating in Djibouti." The report reported that the new base "near the port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea would be used to dock and maintain warships, in addition to providing other logistical support services" because Gwadar, as a commercial port, could not meet military needs.
China and Pakistan may be planning such a controversial installation, especially given the privileged access that the Hong Kong-based newspaper is sometimes granted by the Chinese authorities. In that case, reports of frenzied media in progress could be interpreted as welcome, as they serve as a kind of test balloon to measure international reaction. Whenever these reports arise, the inevitability of the Navy PLA (PLAN) that establishes a base in Pakistan becomes a little more embedded in the public consciousness.
While Islamabad has not responded to the accusation of a Jiwani base, the government refuted the notion that China will create a military base in Gwadar. On January 4, the spokesman for Pakistan's foreign affairs office, Mohammad Faisal, said: "There is no proposal to build any Chinese military base near Gwadar." All this is propaganda against the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the strengthening of relations between Pakistan and China. "
Gwadar is strategically located in the Arabian Sea, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf. there is no sign of a Chinese facility there, Gwadar is home to PNS Akram, a modest naval base for the Pakistan Navy (PN) and the Marines of Pakistan, Task Force-88 was activated in December 2016.
it assigns 600m berth to the navy, in addition to a joint cantonment of three services, A 2016 report from the Senate Defense Committee noted that the naval base is "a significant addition to our maritime infrastructure," but that it is "primarily a commercial enterprise [that] offers substantial operational flexibility for the navy. "The Maritime Safety Agency of Pakistan is also basing Hingol class 600 patrol vessels.  A report entitled & # 39; The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – Barriers and Impacts & # 39; by Arif Rafiq, published last year by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), said: "The navy is the least financed of the three military services of Pakistan, and it is unlikely that Islamabad would disperse by dedicating a Considerable number of naval assets to Gwadar, doing so would require acquisitions far beyond Pakistan's budgetary capabilities, however, the notion of commercial ports such as Gwadar with a dual purpose has potential, they can serve military purposes in wartime, for example . "
The Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara, located halfway between Karachi and Gwadar, is a more critical naval base than Gwadar for Pakistani maritime security. Submarines are changing there, for example. The PN also has an installation in Jiwani to help control traffic in the Arabian Sea, while an air base in Turbat was inaugurated last March. Karachi remains the most important base of the navy.
Rumors of a Chinese base in Gwadar have been discussed for a long time. In November 2016, for example, an anonymous PN official was quoted by The Express Tribune, "China would also deploy its warships in coordination with the Pakistan Navy to safeguard the port and trade under the CPEC." Undoubtedly, the PN would be willing to have PLAN vessels based on their ports, as it would provide an additional counterweight to the Indian Navy.
The Ministry of National Defense of China, as expected, downplayed such ambitions: "To speak of China building a military base in Pakistan is pure conjecture." Keep in mind that China's denials should never be taken at face value, so such evasive words do not diminish Indian anguish.
Long before we see a Chinese base appear in Gwadar, however, it would be natural to see the PLANEO ships docking there to refuel and refuel. This is the logical progression observed in Djibouti, where China's first overseas base exists. There is also a precedent for such logistical visits to the port, with a Chinese submarine visiting the Container Terminal South of Colombo in 2014, and an underwater pier in Karachi for refueling. China knows that establishing a formal base anywhere in Pakistan will create a storm of protests, so it has so far been stepping cautiously on this sensitive issue that could destabilize Sino-Indian relations that became more tense during the Doklam confrontation.
Gwadar Business Development
Short-term lease rights were transferred from Singapore to China on February 18, 2013. Later, the China Overseas Port Company (COPHC) obtained a lease of 40 years, according to April 2017. announcement. The port of Gwadar will cost USD1.6 billion, but COPHC will be exempt from important taxes for more than 20 years. The construction of an international airport of USD230 million will also begin this year.
However, as the crown jewel of the CPEC, the accelerated development of Gwadar Port seems a little embarrassing and perhaps it is an indication that not everything is going well in the CPEC. There are still lacking adequate roads and warehouses, and the last stretch of 5 km of road access to the port is still incomplete. There is enough space to dock only some cargo ships simultaneously, although trade is supposed to grow from 1.2 million tons in 2018 to around 13 million tons by 2022.
The port will have an LNG terminal and will serve as a center for regional gas natural gas pipelines. An oil refinery could appear in the future. Officials at the Port Authority of Gwadar say the seafront could offer berths for 130 ships. In December, the government approved plans to build a shipyard with two large dry docks, with construction between 3 and 5 years.
However, fishermen are still using a pier on the east side of the peninsula, as the promised dock of China on the western side has not yet appeared. China has pledged USD500 million to residents, with a new school, doctors and promises from a hospital, technical college and water supplies. Such generosity from China is unusual, since it does not normally grant such unconditional concessions. This is suggestive that Gwadar is more than an economic investment for China, since Beijing is trying to win hearts and minds.
The CPEC is expected to be completed around 2030 at a cost of USD56 billion. His long-term plan was approved at a meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee in Islamabad on November 21. However, the success of CPEC is based on the completion of roads, railways and pipelines, as well as its continued safety, through some of the most inhospitable land in the world.
Much is done of the movement of resources along this corridor so that China can avoid the checkpoint of the Strait of Malacca. However, moving oil along this approximately 3,500km land route could be 7-10 times more expensive than by ship. Therefore, it is clear that a clear objective of the CPEC for China is the strategic benefit instead of the pure economy.
Most of the cost of the project is financed with low interest or no interest loans from Beijing through state banks. However, these loans are often higher than those offered by the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. Given that China already represents two thirds of Pakistan's trade deficit, this imbalance could grow as CPEC becomes operational and the country is flooded by Chinese exports.
Much of the construction offers few direct benefits for Pakistan since most of the contracts awarded to Chinese companies that bring their own work. Interestingly, more than half of China's investment in CPEC is for power plants, with regular blackouts that weaken Pakistan's economy. Taking into account the CPEC, the World Bank expects the GDP growth rate to increase from 5.5% in 2018 to 5.8% next year.
There is a possibility that the CPEC becomes an expensive white elephant for China. Because President Xi Jinping has so sincerely supported the One Boat initiative, One Road, he can not retire without losing face as well. Could this become Xi's greatest madness? Tom Miller, in the book The Asian Dream of China, said that Chinese officials admit privately that they expect to lose up to 80% of their investment in Pakistan.
Islamabad will also have to pay the privilege of Chinese investment in the next few years as the debt increases. Last November, the Federal Minister of Ports and Boats Mir Hasil Bizenjo revealed that 91% of the revenue from the Port of Gwadar would go directly to China in the next 40 years. Sri Lanka, which gave China a 99-year lease in exchange for lighter debt repayments after loading up on the Hambantota port project debt, could give Pakistan a premonition of what it can expect.
China is not doing it their way, though. Pakistan rejected China's idea of using the yuan in the Gwadar Free Zone, and rejected Chinese terms for a USD14 billion plan to build the Diamer-Bhasha dam. The safety of the CPEC is a critical factor. More than 50 workers have been killed by Balochistan insurgents since 2014. Pakistan created a 15,000-member military security division to protect CPEC's infrastructure. There are some commentators who suspect that a major terrorist attack could give China the pretext required to move PLA troops into Pakistani territory. Pakistan also expects the CPEC to connect with Afghanistan and Central Asia. China is expanding investment to include Afghanistan, this news comes from a trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, China and Pakistan at the end of December. The CPEC can help China stabilize Pakistan, as well as reduce the risk of violence on the Xinjiang border.