BEIJING—Pakistan’s defense minister said China has agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned but underused port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad would like the Chinese to build a base there for the Pakistani navy.
Ahmad Mukhtar gave no clear timetable on the possible change at Gwadar, on Pakistan’s western coast, which is currently managed by a Singaporean government company. But his statement Saturday is the latest illustration of how Pakistan is portraying China as a powerful alternative ally and aid source if the U.S. scales down military assistance for Islamabad in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s killing.
China is eager to expand its influence in Pakistan over the long term, but is wary of the country’s chronic instability, which was highlighted late Sunday when a Pakistani naval base was attacked in the western port of Karachi, about 300 miles southeast of Gwadar.
Mr. Mukhtar made the announcement after accompanying Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on a visit to China last week. During that visit, Pakistani officials say, Beijing agreed to expedite delivery of a second batch of 50 jointly developed JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, possibly within six months.
The fighter agreement prompted India’s defense minister, A.K. Antony, to express serious concern in a meeting with reporters late Friday about the growing defense ties between China and Pakistan, and to assert that India’s only possible response was to build up its own military arsenal.
Attempts on Sunday to contact Mr. Antony and other Indian officials for comment about Gwadar were unsuccessful. In the past, Indian officials have expressed concern Read more…