SEMINAR REPORT :
A one-day seminar, “Gwadar: Potentials and Prospects” was arranged on 29 January 2015 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad, under the auspices of Pak Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), an Islamabad based Independent Think Tank which focuses on issues of conflict and security at intra as well as inter-state levels, in collaboration with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI). The seminar was arranged in two sessions with presentations on various areas of interest. Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Lieutenant General (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch was chief guest of the seminar while Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal was the guest of honour for the first session.
The seminar was attended by a large number of relevant stakeholders including parliamentarians, diplomats, businessmen, scholars, academia, general public and media representatives. The seminar was also attended by the Ambassadors of Nepal, Cuba, Turkey, Oman, Spain, Turkmenistan and Malaysia. Deputy Head of Mission of China Yao Wen attended the seminar on behalf of Chinese Ambassador. Furthermore, the diplomatic participation by Russia, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Germany, Uzbekistan, Denmark, Japan, UK and others duly highlight their interest in Gwadar. Attendance from European Union, World Bank, UN bodies and other international organizations added further flavour to the significance of the seminar on such an important topic. The seminar was widely covered in print and electronic media with reports in almost all leading English/ Urdu newspapers.
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First session was chaired by Chairman PICSS Advisory Board Mr. Akram Zaki (Former Secretary General Foreign Office). The seminar started with verses from holy Quran recited by Qari Abu Zar.
In his welcome address, Managing Director PICSS Abdullah Khan provided introduction of the institute and highlighted significance of the conference. He provided rationale of conducting seminar on the topic which apparently falls on developmental side. He said that the seminar was also meant to highlight the misperception about security situation in Gawadar as the city witnessed no militant activity for quite some time and the couple of militant attacks reported in the recent past in Gwadar actually happened some 100 kilometres but reporting in media gave a wrong impression that it actually happened in Gwadar city. Conversely, security situation in Gwadar is quite stable as monitored by the PICSS, which monitors and records all violent anti-state militant activities in Pakistan. He also highlighted working of PICSS to prepare daily, weekly, monthly, and annual security assessment reports, which could be beneficial for all stakeholders including businessmen, international community, scholars, academicians, and policy makers. All relevant stakeholders can also benefit from an up-to-date database developed and maintained by the PICSS to record all violent anti-state activities and counter-insurgency operations conducted by the security forces across the country.
Chief Guest of the session Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Lieutenant General (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch while expressing his views on “Role of Gwadar Port in Development of Balochistan” said that no one can deny the importance of Gwadar and expressed his confidence that Gwadar project will not only benefit Pakistan but also regional countries in a larger extent. He also stressed that benefits from Gwadar could be taken when reservations of Baloch people are addressed and road infrastructure in the province is improved. He also stressed for redressing difficulties of Baloch people at priority. He further added that with development of Gwadar, this area will be transformed into free zone and special economic zone and for this purpose fool proof security arrangements are inevitable adding that Balochistan Government is making efforts in this regard while Baloch people should also come forward as this project is crucial for development of the province. He said that insurgents opted for the wrong choice of taking arms but the demands of the people of Balochistan are genuine and those demands should be met through economic development for which Gwadar project has a significant role to play. He stressed that the benefits of Gwadar project should be transferred to local people for socio-economic development of the area which will also help in improving security situation of the province.
Guest of honour for the session Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Mr Ahsan Iqbal highlighting importance of Gwadar Port said that Gwadar is located at junction of three regions of the world including South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia and approximately three billion of world populace lies in this region and development of Gwadar port will bring enormous opportunities for these people of said regions. The minister underlined that vision of the government for Gwadar port is not competing with other ports or create any rivalry, rather, it complements the existing ports and trade routes in addition to boosting development of entire region.
He said that Pakistan is passing through economic transition and Gwadar is a viable opportunity for development and prosperity of Balochistan as well as Pakistan. Talking about transportation routes from Gwadar to up and down of the country, the Minister said that the government working on N-85 project that will join Gwadar with up of the country through Ratto Dero. He also said that the government is pursuing holistic, integrated approach to develop Gwadar city like other port cities of the world and to transfer benefits of this project to local population of the area. Highlighting geographical importance and location of Gwadar, the minister said that Gawadar has unique landscape and there are numerous projects in line with development of Gwadar Port for public welfare like tourism, fisheries, construction and infrastructure.
In his presentation on the topic of “Gwadar: Potential and Investment Opportunities”, Chairman Standing Committee on Gwadar Development Col (Retd) Maqbool Afridi highlighted that Gwadar is a convergence point between Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia. He further highlighted that being a Deep Sea Port and because of its strategic location, it will be a gateway and hub of world trade and business catering for all types of international commercial activities. Gwadar’s geographical location gives it an edge even over ports of Dubai, Iran and Oman and can act as gateway to landlocked Central Asian Republics in addition to providing shortest route to Western China as well as north western part of India.
Development of Gwadar will provide bases for Industrial development, which is natural Phenomenon as industries always develop at port cities. In Gwadar the industries that would develop include manufacturing industry, heavy automotive, petro chemicals, etc. Thus Gwadar provides not only investment opportunities but would also create millions of jobs from unskilled workers to skilled and highly skilled professionals. Thus building Gwadar would be building Pakistan.
In his short message, Chairman ATS Group of Industries Mian Anjum Nisar underlined the importance of Gwadar development project for future of Pakistan. He said that local populace of the province and Gwadar particularly will be involved to share benefits of the port. He said Chinese are financing this project, their distance will be shorter with trade destinations of the world with development of Gwadar Port and they will find an opportunity to get closer with Middle East for their exports. He said that Gwadar Port is our hope as well as our future and it will open new vistas of opportunities and business for the entire region.
In his presentation on “Gwadar: Potential and Prospects”, Dr Azhar Ahmad while highlighting strategic importance of Gwadar port said that this important port is lesser known but has all the potentials to act as energy hub for receipt, storage, processing and trans-shipment to South East Asia, Far East,and to the US market. It has the potential to prove as gateway of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; transhipment hub for Heavy Ships; and transit trade for Central Asia Republics and Afghanistan. Gwadar can facilitate exploiting mineral resources of Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Balochistan). Gwadar can create about 2.0 million jobs with their positive impacts on socio- economic development of areas. Gwadar also has enormous potential for tourism.He pointed out that for materializing that dream and making the port operational, basic infrastructure like power, water, sewerage, gas, city-road network, public transport, etc., require development in Gwadar for which substantial investment is required. He suggested that connectivity through road, rail and air links needs to be established to access mineral rich area within Balochistan as well as across the borders in Afghanistan/ CARs. He also suggested that Gwadar be announced as special economic zone with tax incentives while developing free zone, oil city, and Economic Processing Zone, land digitization and developing security for workers and investors.
While reading the message of Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch who had kindly consented to be the Chief Guest but had to stay back in Quetta due to local body elections, Member National Assembly Sardar kamal Khan Bangulzai stated that Gwadar project is a milestone for prosperous Balochistan and people of Gwadar welcome foreign investment in this very important project that will kick start socio- economic development in the province and will improve living standards of the people and help improving security situation in the province.
While rapping up the first session, Chairman PICSS Advisory Board Senator (retd) Akram Zaki said in his concluding remarks that people across the world want only two things peace and security. Trouble starts through lack of opportunity and Gwadar Port provides jobs and opportunity to the people of Balochistan. He said importance of Gwadar was realized long ago due to its location for proximity. Gwadar is natural location for land-locked states of CARs. He said that Gwadar fortunately has its second revival. Gwadar is an opportunity for the whole region. This project will materialize the dream of prosperous Pakistan.
Second session was chaired by President FPCCI Muhammad Adrees.
In first presentation of the second session, former Vice-Naval Chief Vice Admiral (retd) Muhammad Haroon speaking on the topic of “Gwadar Port and Maritime Security Challenges” said that location of Gwadar being away from Indian coast, apparently provides advantage in terms of defence against Indian naval and air threat unlike Karachi, which is in close proximity of Indian Air Force and Indian Navy but inherent nature of naval and air power to be mobile provide them with the flexibility to overcome disadvantages in terms of geographic proximity. He stated that in terms of blockade, the geographic location of Gwadar in close proximity to the vital international shipping lanes and critical Choke Point of Strait of Hormuz makes a difficult proposition by Indian Navy. Moreover, international players like the US, China, Japan and European countries will be extremely uncomfortable for such a misadventure by India providing bases for optimism about security of Gwadar Port.
While apprising the participants about latest developments at Gwadar, Director General Gwadar Development Authority Dr. Sajjad Hussain Baloch dispelled the impression that people of Balochistan are against the development while acknowledging that an insurgency is going on in the province. He questioned if Balochistan has vast mineral sources then why should Baloch remain unemployed. He said that people of Balochistan are business loving people and they have entrepreneurial and business skills and should be made beneficiary of the developmental projects through giving preferences on jobs; giving soft loans to local entrepreneurs; launching short courses for trainings to enhance better job opportunities; introduction of local private partnership; and investment by multi- national companies of 5% of their profits on the social sector. He suggested that equal opportunities should be given to all interested multi-national companies.
In his brief address, CEO of China Overseas Port Holding Company (Pvt) Limited Zeng Qing song said that Gwadar is very important not only for Pakistan and this region but very important for China as well. The provinces near to Pakistan Border like Xinjiang have huge areas; need their products to reach to ports for export. For this purpose the best solution is Gwadar Port. The Chinese company is working for commercial operations at Gwadar. Infrastructure is very poor at Gwadar there is no power station, fresh water is also lacking, and there are many other problems it faces. He said that Chinese and Pakistani governments are trying to enhance cooperation on Gwadar projects. We are planning international airport and many other facilities at Gwadar very soon. He said that within few years situation at Gwadar will be completely changed. From next year to get Chinese goods one will not have to go to China but they will be available at Gwadar.
While wrapping up the session, President FPCCI Muhammad Adrees thanked the chief guest, diplomats, presenters, parliamentarians, scholars, academicians, businessmen and other participants. He also praised Pak Institute for Conflict and Security Studies for holding seminar on such an important topic and providing opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to discuss various aspects of Gwadar project. He also assured that FPCCI will continue to endeavour helping in such initiatives in future as well.
Chairman PICSS Board Senator (Retd) Akram Zaki said that notwithstanding the worthiness of the inaugural session, the second session provided more opportunity to people from Balochistan to present their point of view as two of the presenters were Baloch in addition to Chief Guest who himself was from Balochistan.
Signing of MoU
An important event of the seminar was signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between a Pakistani company Tufail Industries (Pvt) Limited and China Overseas Port Holding Company (Pvt) Limited. Mr. Muhammad Tufail of Tufail Industries and Mr. Zeng Qingsong of COPHC signed on behalf of their respective entities. Tufail Industries will bring shipment of 50 thousand ton ships to Gwadar port which will be facilitated by COPHC.