Forget Gwadar, China has Karachi
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The Government of India is finding it increasingly hard to speak with one voice on issues relating to China. Consider for example the reaction of two of India's senior ministers in response to the reports that Pakistan is about to hand over the Gwadar port to a Chinese company.
As India's diplomat-in-chief, the external affairs minister Salman Khurshid sought to down play the story. He was quoted as saying "I don't think we should overreact to everything that Pakistan does or everything that China is involved in. We need to take these matters in our stride and in the normal course".
That was last week. This week at the inauguration of the air show in Bengaluru, the defence minister, A. K. Antony was cryptic but quite clear. India is "concerned' about the development that could bring Chinese navy closer to India's shores.
The absence of coherent policy articulation in Delhi is made worse by a media debate that has no space for putting a story in perspective or bring some facts into play.
The prospect of China running the Gwadar port in Pakistan, currently being run by a subsidiary of the Port of Singapore Authority, has been around for a while. After the American raid on Abbottabad and the execution of Osama bin Ladin in May 2011, angry Pakistani leaders were quite open in offering Gwadar as a base for the Chinese navy. It was Beijing that said, "thank, but no thanks".
Last week the Pakistani Cabinet has taken a decision to hand it over to a Chinese company. The port, on a small island off the Makran coast of Balochistan, was built with Chinese financial assistance in the last decade. Has China changed its mind? Is it ready to build a naval facility at Gwadar, that is so close to the sensitive Persian Gulf and next door to India?
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