GWADAR, Pakistan — The idea of transforming the ancient fishing village of Gwadar into a bustling port city has been around since at least 1954, when Pakistan commissioned the U.S. Geological Survey to examine its coastline. Their conclusion: Gwadar, which sits on the Arabian Sea, would be an ideal location for a deep-water port.
Gwadar’s potential went unrealized for decades, but it is now at the heart of a hugely ambitious plan known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. China has pledged to spend $63 billion to bolster Pakistan’s power plants, ports, airports, expressways and other infrastructure under the initiative, which Beijing positions as one of the pillars of its $1 trillion global Belt and Road Initiative championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The investment is clearly visible at Gwadar. More than 1,000 people, about half of whom are Chinese, work at a recently completed 660-meter container terminal. Nearby is a hospital built using Chinese funds. Pearl Continental Hotel, a luxury hotel owned by a local company, stands on a hill overlooking the port. The pier is dotted with Pakistani naval and coast guard ships. Armed boats and pickup trucks patrol the area, while wooden fishing boats float in the distance.