Karachi, Feb.3 : Pakistan's Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir, has said his Indian counterpart, Admiral Sureesh Mehta should not be overtly concerned aboutthe strategic partnership between Pakistan and China with reference to Gwadar port.
Describing it as a purely a commercial venture, Admiral Tahir said that as a sovereign country, Pakistan had all rights to take measures for its economic progress and the development of its people.
Admiral Tahir was speaking to reporters after witnessing a Pakistan-Saudi Arabia joint naval exercise Naseem Al Bahr here alongwith Rear Admiral Abdullah Sultan, the Commander of the Western Fleet, Royal Saudi Naval Forces.
A number of Pakistan Navy and Royal Saudi Naval Forces units, including Destroyers, Submarines, Missile Boats, Mine Hunters, Naval Aviation, Special Services and Marines, are participating in the exercise which comprises sea and land phases.
The commander Pak Marines also gave a detailed briefing to journalists on the land phase of the exercise. He said that this was the first time in the history of Naseem Al Bahr that Marine forces of the two navies had participated in the exercise.
It maybe recalled that on Monday, Admiral Mehta had said that the Gwadar port being built by Pakistan with Chinese assistance on its Baluchistan coast has "serious strategic implications for India".
"Being only 180 nautical miles from the exit of the Straits of Hormuz, Gwadar, being bulit in Baluchistan coast, would enable Pakistan take control over the world energy jugular and interdiction of Indian tankers," Admiral Mehta had said while delivering the T S Narayanaswamy Memorial lecture in Chennai.
He said that the challenge for India was to balance relations with China in such a manner that competition for strategic significance of space in the Indian Ocean leads to cooperation rather than conflict.
"The pressure for countries to cooperate in the maritime military domain to ensure smooth flow of energy and commerce on the high seas will grow even further," he said speaking on "Oceanic Influence on India's Development in the next Decade."
Talking about "Chinese designs on the Indian Ocean," Mehta said China had a strategy called String of Pearls',which it seeks to set up bases and outposts across the globe, strategically located along its energy lines, to monitor and safeguard energy flows.
The Indian Navy chief expressed concerns about growing presence of Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean, warning that Beijing could be seeking to widen its geopolitical influence or military presence.
"China's development of these strategic geopolitical "pearls" has been non-confrontational, with no evidence of imperial or neocolonial ambition," he claimed.
According to one intelligence report, the port facility at Gwadar is a win-win prospect for both China and Pakistan. The port at Karachi currently handles 90 percent of Pakistan's sea-borne trade, but because of its proximity to India, it is extremely vulnerable to blockade.
Gwadar, a small fishing village which Pakistan identified as a potential port location in 1964 but lacked the means to develop, is 450 miles west of Karachi. A modern port at Gwadar would enhance Pakistan's strategic depth along its coastline with respect to India.
For China, the strategic value of Gwadar is its 240-mile distance from the Strait of Hormuz. China is facilitating development of Gwadar and paving the way for future access by funding a majority of the 1.2 billion dollar project and providing the technical expertise of hundreds of engineers.
Since construction began in 2002, China has invested four times more than Pakistan and contributed an additional 200 million dollars towards the building of a highway to connect Gwadar with Karachi.