Islamabad: The revamped Gwadar port, a strategic deep seaport in the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, on Sunday became operational in Pakistan's restive Balochistan after a Chinese commercial ship laden with around 250 containers set off for the Middle East and Africa.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the start of operational activities at the coastal town of Gwadar in southwestern Balochistan province, which saw an ISIS suicide bombing claim as many as 52 lives.
With the operationalisation of the revamped Gwadar port, the multibillion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), linking western China to the Arabian Sea, became a reality.
The USD 46 billion CPEC is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), sparking concerns from India.
In his address, Sharif called the development as a "watershed" moment in the history of Pakistan and the entire region. He called it a symbol of Pakistan's commitment to China's One Belt-One Road initiative, of which the CPEC is a key port.
"We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the CPEC and all the projects under its umbrella are materialised within the given time," he said.
Sharif also commented on the One Belt-One Road initiative by China and said that it integrates with Pakistan's Vision 2025 which seeks to transform the country into a hub of trade and commerce.
He said the CPEC would ultimately integrate South Asia, China and Central Asia, and offer opportunities for people in this region besides giving opportunities to investors from across the world.
Officials said a major trade convoy that started from Kashgar in western China on October 30 yesterday reached Gwadar, where Chinese vessels were ready to take the shipment of Chinese goods to Middle East and African countries.
"This is the first time that a trade convoy successfully passed through the western part of Pakistan from the north to the south. It proves the connectivity of the local roads and the realisation of the concept of one corridor with multiple passages," Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong said at the inauguration ceremony. He said it was the first time that the Gwadar port is
exporting Chinese containers to overseas destinations.
Top civil and military leadership, including army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Balochistan chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri besides business representatives from Pakistan and China attended the event.
Chinese ships currently use the Strait of Malacca, a narrow passage between the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, and the new route gives China access to the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East which would not only save a lot of time but also money involved in the travel.
A representative of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) was quoted as saying by the Dawn that oil China imported from Saudi Arabia usually reached Shanghai in 25 to 30 days, while through the Gwadar-Kashgar route it would take about 12 days.
"The goods China imports through the Gwadar port will reach Kashgar in five days," the official said.
Not only would China save time by using this route but it would also be economically beneficial for both Pakistan and the neighbouring country, he added.