Prof. Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema is Dean Faculty of Contemporary Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. A seasoned teacher and experienced researcher Dr Cheema has served many academic institutions both inside and outside the country in various capacities over a period nearing four decades. He has numerous research publications to his name that were published inside as well as outside Pakistan.
Q: Gwadar Port is believed to be a game changer. Do you think it has the potential to bring a significant change for Pakistan and, by extension, South Asia?
Pervaiz Cheema: It is definitely a game-changer. But projects like these involve pragmatic interests on both sides. No state helps you for the sake of helping you.
China is an energy-dependent country. It imports energy resources from the Gulf which have to cover an estimated 10,000 km distance just to reach China and an additional 5,000 km inside it. China can find a replacement for this route in a) the Southeast Asian straits; b) Myanmar or Pakistan. Now India has military bases in proximity of the said straits. If the Sino-Indian rivalry continues, India can block those straits posing an insurmountable obstacle to Chinese trade. On the other hand, the Pakistan option is much safer. Once Gwadar is functional, China will be indifferent to obstacles posed by India in other trading routes.
Similarly, Pakistan has its interests. Gwadar is a potential trading hub. It will provide a shorter trading route to regional states.
Q: Do you think the development of Chabahar Port will threaten the successful functioning of Gwadar Port?
Pervaiz Cheema: Chabahar will not obstruct Gwadar’s potential. Iran will not allow it to be used toward that end. Naturally, due to their proximity, there will be competition. The neutral state will opt for a port based on political and geographical and technical factors.
Q: Which port is more suitable for Afghanistan – the country believed to be crucial for the success of both?
Pervaiz Cheema: Both, but Gwadar more than Chabahar. Afghans will opt for Gwadar once their relations with Pakistan are mended, until then, they’ll go for Chabahar. We share certain commonalities with Afghanistan such as the Pushtoon race. These factors too will count.
Q: For Central Asian states which port would be more favorable for their trade?
Pervaiz Cheema: They would like to utilize both options now that they have them. But as it is, one assumes that they will go for Gwadar.
Q: In an environment as hostile as South Asia’s, can two strategic ports function without feeding the security dilemmas of the respective states? Or will each seek to disrupt progress of the other?
Pervaiz Cheema: There are a number of examples of proximate ports operating without conflict or hostility. Central Asia is a huge area and all its states are landlocked. They need access to the waters and they will avail the opportunities offered by both ports in this respect.
Write-up Credits: Naima Shahab
Video Credits: Nida Abbassi