Forget Gwadar, China has Karachi
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Facts speak otherwise. For all the hype, Gwadar is not an attractive place for the Chinese navy. It is located in one of the most backward regions of Pakistan. The Baloch insurgency has frequently targeted Chinese nationals doing project work in the region.
Gwadar does not have the kind of infrastructure that navies look for. What Gwadar lacks, Karachi has in plenty. Since it first showed up in the Indian Ocean nearly three decades ago, Karachi has been the favourite port of call for the Chinese navy.
Chinese companies have long partnered the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works which is assembling the Chinese supplied frigates there. Karachi has enough infrastructure to service Chinese naval vessels and potential deployment of Chinese maritime aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
Someday, Gwadar might well emerge as a full-fledged Chinese naval facility. For now, Karachi already serves as a major facility for the projection of Chinese naval power into the Indian Ocean.
(C. Raja Mohan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a Contributing Editor for The Indian Express)