China's take over of Pakistan's strategic Gwadar port is not aimed at "encircling" India, but the move is crucial to the country's economic interests as it gives western China access to the Arabian Sea to access oil supplies from the Gulf, official Chinese media said today.
"Not surprisingly, China's intentions in taking over Gwadar Port have been interpreted through a military perspective. Many analysts from the West and India believe that China harbours the intention to build naval bases there," a commentary posted on the state-run Global Times website said.
"Chinese operational control of Gwadar has seemingly set off alarm bells in India as it feels it is being encircled by China. The Chinese presence in Gwadar has also been seen as a threat to the US fleet in the Middle East."
"In fact, China is not so powerful, nor is India so weak, so as to make it possible that the transfer of a mere civil project can "encircle" India," it said.
Gwadar Port is in a critical strategic location: It is at the apex of the Arabian Sea and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and only about 400 km away from the Strait of Hormuz, a key global oil supply route.
The port will be of crucial economic interest to China because it gives western China access to the sea, it said.
It will also benefit a large part of the oil trade of China, which is the second largest oil importer in the world.
"If a pipeline connecting the port to western China is built, the shortest route for oil imports from the Middle East can be realized. The port will also give a great boost to developing China's vast western areas," it said.
Pakistan today approved a deal that transfers operational control of Gwadar Port from Singapore's PSA International to Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited.
An earlier write up in the same daily said China agreed to take over the Gwadar port in volatile Baluchistan despite security risks because of the project's strategic value.
Beijing has been working to develop a string of harbours in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, a region traditionally considered an Indian backyard.
China has funded ports in Sri Lanka and has been approached to help build a port in Bangladesh.