Is China developing a naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan? The Chinese naval base, to complement another military base in Djibouti, would boost China’s footing in the Indian Ocean and challenge the United States, writes H I Sutton for the Forbes.
A new Chinese high-security compound has been detected in Pakistan which could be identified as a Chinese port and a potential naval base to strengthen Beijing’s foothold in the Indian Ocean, writes Suttin for the Forbes.
In the latest satellite imagery from the Gwadar region of the Balochistan province in Pakistan, a high-security compound has been identified which is run by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC Ltd).
THREAD – 1. #Civil_Engineering From Space – The 19 km Gwadar East Bay Expressway in #Pakistan. Under the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the 6 lanes road will connect N10 National Highway (Makran Coastal Highway) with Gwadar Free Zone and Gwadar Port. #CIVINT pic.twitter.com/meLYzRWkAp
— CIVINT (@Civil_Int) June 1, 2020
This Chinese construction company is largely state-owned and is known to be primarily involved with multiple Chinese civil engineering projects. While defence analysts opine that security at such places is usually, however, the compound in question has extensive security of questionable levels.
“It has anti-vehicle berms, security fences and a high wall. Sentry posts and elevated guard towers cover the perimeter between the fence and the inner wall. This suggests armed guards with rifles,” reported Forbes.
Apart from the main compound, there are two other smaller sites that have been built in the last year that have rows of blue-roofed buildings. Experts suggest that these actually might be barracks for a Chinese Marine Corps garrison where Beijing had previously been reported to be deploying marines in 2017.
Chinese Naval Base In Gwadar?
It is widely known that Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has been built with heavy assistance from China and since two decades defence experts and analysts had been looking for possible signs of China’s naval bases in the area.
Gwadar is considered a cornerstone project of the approximately $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), through which import and export of goods from China can be smoothly carried-out overland via Pakistan to Xinjiang.
This would effectively reduce the need for Beijing to depend on the longer sea route via the Malacca Straits. A major shortcut, this route will re-route the Chinese transportation services discontinuing their sailing to South Asia.
It is reported that until now the commercial port at Gwadar appears to have been under-used, however, recently a deal was formulated to allow Afghanistan-bound trade to use the port. Last week, MV Manet which is a massive merchant ship made its way to the port with about 17,600 tons of wheat.
Sutton writes that “whether the Chinese naval base materializes remains to be seen. But these new sites, including the heavily defended compound, may indicate that the next phase of port construction is imminent. And if the Chinese Navy does begin using the port it will strengthen its capabilities in the Indian Ocean.”