India has said it is concerned over China’s role in operating a strategically important port in Pakistan.
State-run Chinese Overseas Port Holdings will take over management of the Gwadar Port after the Pakistani government approved a deal to transfer operational control from Singapore’s PSA International which reportedly withdrew because of the unstable security situation and a shortage of funds, The Asahi Shimbun reports. New Delhi and Beijing continue to jostle for influence in the region.
China covered about 75% of the $250-million cost for the construction of the Gwadar Port, situated at the apex of the Arabian Sea and at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, near the Strait of Hormuz – a key route for crude oil exports from the Middle East.
Its strategic location could open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf across Pakistan to western China, fueling fears that Beijing is aggressively expanding its maritime military influence, according to Reuters.
“It is a matter of concern,” India’s defence minister, A.K. Antony, said at a news conference. The US and India have voice concerns over the possibility that the ports could be refurbished into military ports.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry downplayed Beijing’s decision to take over the operations of the port, saying it is part of the continued cooperation between China and its close ally, Pakistan.