India "concerned" by China role in Pakistan port

Wed Feb 6, 2013 6:54am EST
 

By Anurag Kotoky and A. Ananthalakshmi

BANGALORE (Reuters) - China's role in operating a strategically important port in Pakistan is a matter of concern for India, its defense minister said on Wednesday, as New Delhi and Beijing jostle for influence in the region.

Indian policy-makers have long been wary of a string of strategically located ports being built by Chinese companies in its neighborhood, as India beefs up its military clout to compete with its Asian rival.

Management of Gwadar port, around 600 km (370 miles) from Karachi and close to Pakistan's border with Iran, was handed over to state-run Chinese Overseas Port Holdings last week after previously being managed by Singapore's PSA International.

"It is a matter of concern to us," Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told reporters when asked about Chinese control of the port.

When complete, the port, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane, is seen opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China, and could be used by the Chinese Navy, analysts say.

"It will enable (China) to deploy military capability in the region," said Jay Ranade, of the Centre for Air Power Studies and a former additional secretary at the government of India. "Having control of Gwadar, China is basically getting an entry into the Arabian Sea and the Gulf."

China has also funded ports in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, and Chittagong in Bangladesh, both India's neighbors.

"Gwadar is a more serious development than the others," Ranade said, as the Pakistani port gives China base facilities.   Continued...

 
India's Defence Minister A.K. Antony waits to speak at a plenary session of the 11th International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in this file photo taken June 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Chong