By Pathik Hasan
Pakistan’s Gwadar port has brought a new dream for the region. This port is not only for Pakistan but also all regional states. Chinese Investment has accelerated the pace of aspirations in this regard. China’s multibillion dollar project “CPEC’ is linked with Gwadar port. This port creates some sort of possibilities and potentials for entire South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, Eurasia, East Asia and Middle East.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can utilize the facilities of Gwadar port. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can use Pakistan’s Gwadar port to boost up its trade with Central Asia, Western China and Pakistan. Gwadar port is going to be regional trade hub in the region. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can reach Western China, Central Asia, and Pakistan easily. Pakistan has some regional connectivity with Central Asian States through Afghanistan. If Bangladesh’s ports such as Chittagong (Chattogram), Payra, Mangla ports can be connected with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, Karachi port or Port Qassim via Sri Lankan Colombo or Hambantota port, both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka would benefit. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian states would also benefit.
Sri Lanka can use Gwadar Port for warehousing to facilitate trade with Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics and Middle East. Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka have doubled. Total trade is $ 400 million, with exports over $ 300 million whereas imports are less $ 100 million. Sri Lanka’s main export item is tea and Pakistan imports a very meager quantity from Sri Lanka with bulk of Sri Lankan tea.
Sri Lankan can use Gwadar Port’s gateway for export to Afghanistan and then Uzbekistan and from there to entire Central Asia. Sri Lanka has already showed keen interest in the proposal during the visit of PM Imran Khan in February this year. Pakistan decided to allocate land to Uzbekistan for warehousing and export. Sri Lanka should try to get the same facility from. Sri Lanka could benefit by offering special packages to international shipping lines for the use of facilities in both Colombo and Gwadar ports, especially to vessels coming from East Asia. On the hand, Pak-China-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh trade ties would boost up.
Afghanistan is now viable and politically stable. Taliban has formed a government. Regional states including China, Russia are interested to invest for the development of infrastructure and Connectivity of Afghanistan. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can also play a role to take part in the development process in Afghanistan.
Therefore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should use Gwadar port to reach these countries for ensuring its own business interest. Although there are some bilateral crises between Bangladesh and Pakistan, both the governments should reconsider the issue of mutual interest under present global order. Pakistan should play an important role in this regard. It has some responsibilities to Bangladesh. It has to be understood and realized. But these problems must be solved diplomatically with bilateral efforts. On the other hand, there is a free trade agreement between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s top exports to Sri Lanka include textiles and cement with and the latter’s top exports to Pakistan being tea, rubber, and readymade garments. Pakistan and Sri Lanka both could benefit from growing trade ties if the connectivity amongst Sri Lanka-Bangladesh and Pakistan could be ensured.
Pakistan’s Gwadar port has very strategic significance. China and Pakistan are working together to establish ‘Gwadar port’ into a regional hub. Using Gwadar port, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can easily access into the markets of Central Asian states, Western part of China, Pakistan, even Afghanistan and Western Asian states.
Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi products can be exported from those regions easily. The raw materials for apparel sector (cotton) can be imported easily from Pakistan and Central Asian states. Such a way, the business relations amongst Bangladesh and other Muslim countries will be strengthened. Sri Lanka-Bangladesh-Pakistan economic ties (Triad) and to some extent Sri Lanka-Bangladesh-China-Pakistan (Quadrilateral) will be further bolstered.
Sri Lankan traditional tea, apparel, rice, and agricultural industries, together with up-coming machinery and industrial manufacturing industries such as auto tyres can be mixed with Bangladeshi apparel, medicines, fruits, and vegetables along with its upcoming IT services and electronic sectors.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka both import goods such as cotton from Pakistan, Central Asian States, Western and Central China and even Russia. Pushing this existing trade however requires a holistic trilateral effort. If Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can make better use of Gwadar port and CPEC, they can take part in the development process in Afghanistan with Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran. The South Asian SAARC trade bloc may also be revived through these activities. Intra-regional and international tourism can also become a platform for services growth. Religious tourism can be a growing sector amongst Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
During the visit of Sri Lanka, Khan commented that Pakistan is allocating land to Uzbekistan for warehousing and export services, and that the same facility can also be provided to Sri Lanka. Uzbekistan is a rapidly developing Central Asia nation and although landlocked, can access other regional markets that open these up for Sri Lankan made products. Uzbekistan is surrounded by five countries: Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the north-east, Tajikistan to the southeast, Afghanistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Collectively the Central Asian nations have a GDP (PPP) of US$1 trillion, a projected post-covid growth rate of about 5-6% and a population of some 73 million. Its average GDP (PPP) per capita is four times higher than Sri Lanka meaning the region is a wealthy market for Sri Lanka to target for exports.
As regional states, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should be examining a revival of connections with Pakistan. The Belt and Road Initiative has and is being built to promote such interconnectivity. South and Southeast Asian Governments and businesses should be examining how best to exploit it.
There is no shipping line connection between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Bangladesh imports raw materials and products from western China and Central Asian Countries through either Singapore via Malacca strait or by air. So, the cost of transportation and wastage of time is huge for Bangladesh. Bangladesh can easily overcome this utilizing the Pakistan’s Gwadar port. Bangladesh has already joined China run BRI project in 2017. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka all are the members of Chinese BRI project.
Whole South East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia would benefit. ASEAN and SAARC free trade zones could be created. Bangladesh could benefit ultimately. The dependence of Bangladesh on India will be decreased. A greater regional interest could be confirmed.
Why Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should utilize Pakistan’s Gwadar port?
Why Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should utilize Pakistan’s Gwadar port?
- For ensuring their own business interest.
- To strengthen the economic and trade ties with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asian States, West Asian countries and Even Russia and China.
- To decrease their huge trade dependence on India,
- For creating the ASEAN and SAARC free trade of zones.
- This connectivity could unite the ASEAN and SAARC free trade zones.
- The all states in those regions would benefit mutually in the sector of trade, Counter-terrorism approach from multilateral ties.
- Enhancing bilateral relations could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries. This will create an opportunity to serve greater regional interest.
- Re-establishing the Himalayan-South Asian connectivity can occur if political and diplomatic solutions of Bangladesh-Pakistan strained ties can be found. Sri Lanka could be mediator in this regard.
- Usage of Gwadar port by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would ensure the maximum benefit of the people.
So, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should use Pakistan’s Gwadar port. There is no alternative for each and every state in the world without being connected with others. There are huge potentials for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in this regard. Now it’s time for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to utilize this.