Maryam Verij Kazemi, geopolitical analyst.
Dr. Maryam is a researcher with Institute of East Strategic Studies (IESS). She completed her PhD in political Geography. She has published numerous books and articles on Geopolitics, Geo-economic ,Islamic fundamentalism, International Relations , Energy.
A megalopolis, sometimes called a megaregion, city cluster or super city, is a collection of cities close to each other which enjoy tight functional relations. The megalopolises are known as the headquarters of global activities in the political, economic, financial and technological spheres, which enjoy social cohesion and unity. Jean Gottmann argues that metropolises are not really a large city, but a vast area of interconnected cities that are functionally interconnected, particularly affected by ports and shipping. The megalopolises are in fact the urban systems which are closely connected through functional relationships and very fast telecommunication networks (cables). In such complexes, which are the headquarters of the largest economic institutions, the economic destiny of large parts of the world is determined Metropolises established a coordination system for their overall goals at the regional level in metropolitan areas, the conditions for maintaining infrastructure for commercial and cultural development are considered very important.
At present, such megalopolises can be found along the coastal areas as well as the central parts of the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and the European countries. Undoubtedly, the connection of port-megalopolises plays a pivotal role in bilateral or multilateral interactions, and port geopolitics has become a key word in the regional communications. These megalopolises enjoy a high potential in connecting the economic systems of their surroundings and have a tremendous impact on the international markets. Hence, many powers and countries that are benefiting from strategic geographical and geopolitical capabilities, such as the advantage of access to open waters, try to pursue their goals by creating and developing port megalopolises. And those who do not have any favorable access to open waters try to use the capabilities of their surrounding countries through signing bilateral or multilateral treaties or agreements in a bid to achieve their own economic-commercial goals.
China is making great efforts to advance the belt and road project to escape the Malacca crisis and the dynamism of its maritime economy, in which Pakistan plays an important role because, in addition to being an oceanic rival to India, it faces southwest Asia. And the Persian Gulf (center of oil and natural Gas reserves) is close, so china’s investment in the port Gwadar, in addition to enhancing the geopolitical and economic weight of Pakistan, will have an impact on the region, including the port of Chabahar in Iran.
Pakistan has five important and strategic ports on the shores of the Arabian Sea with unique coastal positions, namely Karachi Port, Qasim Port, Keti Port, Gwadar Port and Ormara Port, which can play an important role in the global and regional markets in addition to promoting Pakistan’s economy. The country’s coasts are deep enough for transportation, especially in the ports of Karachi and bin Qasim, and are expected to become the metropolis in Asia in the coming years.
- Karachi Port: The history of this port dates back to the era before the independence of Pakistan. This port hosts a lot of domestic and international cargo. The western wharf of the port can host about 300,000 containers each year. The eastern wharf, meanwhile, can ship about 350,000 containers a year, making it Pakistan’s largest and busiest port. Port performance and capacity indicate that it will play an important role in future trade competition.
- Qasim Port: This port was established in 1980. It was named after the great ruler of the Umayyad dynasty Muhammad ibn Qasim Saghafi and is located 15 km away from the National Highway called (N-10). The port is closely connected to some of the main islands of Karachi, including Khiprianwala Island, Buddo Island and Bundle Island. However, if we deeply analyze the location of this port, we can clearly see its connection with Korangi Industrial Area, Mehran Town, Lucknow and Allah Wala Town. The port supports domestic and international shipping lines in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The types of vessels regularly calling at Port Qasim are Container Ship (27%), Bulk Carrier (26%), Oil/Chemical Tanker (16%), LNG Tanker (6%), Crude Oil Tanker (4%). The last vessel called at this port was Ocean Prince, 2h and 14m and 46s ago.
- Keti Port: This port has a beautiful natural landscape and is located in Thatta, Sindh province. It has also easy access to Karachi port and the National Highway (N-10). The rapidly developing cities of Gharo and Mirpur Sakro are located near this port.
- Gwadar Port: This port is a strategic port located in the Arabian Sea and considered to be an important part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Gwadar has become an important node in the “Belt and Road” initiative proposed by the Chinese president. It will link South Asia, China, Central Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa through a network of land and sea routes. And, contribute significantly towards the progress and prosperity of Pakistan, China and the entire region. This port is formally leased to China until 2059. Today, Gwadar’s geostrategic position allows its officials to monitor and control the oil trade routes as well as Source lines of codes (SLOCs) between South Asia, West Asia, Africa and Central Asia. The capacity of the Gwadar port is equal to those of the Persian Gulf. With the investment of China, at the port of Gwadar, most likely based on the economy and trade in the region, a new game will take shape, which will have implications for the region. Gwadar connects different regions of Asia and central Asia, the Greater Middle East, Europe and Africa through land and sea routes, thus developing and advancing the economic and trade goals of Pakistan and china, as well as the entire region. New competition will form with china’s economic and trade investment in Gwadar, with the opening of the Gwadar port, Middle Eastern energy will enter china through the economic corridor, and the development of the Gwadar port will increase Pakistan’s maritime trade capacity. , the country will reduce its dependence on the port of Karachi, which is located near the Indian border.
- Ormara Port: This port, which is located 350 km west of the Karachi port enjoys an excellent position for maritime trade, like the Gwadar port. In addition, this port is supposed to be a warehouse for the Hatf-VII/Babur missiles which have the capability of carrying nuclear warheads.
With this in mind, if the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor becomes operational, these ports, which are geographically connected to each other, can form port megalopolises. There is no doubt that in most of the countries, development and modernity always begin in ports and coastal areas and then go to other regions. Therefore, creation of port megalopolises in Pakistan under the influence of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a capacity that can turn them into the centers of economic activities at the regional and global levels through an integrated management based on the ecological variables. These ports can also play an effective role in creating transit-economic unions in their surroundings.
On the other hand, the creation and expansion of port megalopolises in Pakistan can particularly be a source of concern for India. This is considered a serious challenge to the formation of port megalopolises, because the Pakistani port megalopolises, which are established with large volumes of foreign investment and international commitments, are supposed to monitor and control the business flow as well as rapid population growth, which is not compatible with India’s geo-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic goals. Moreover, a number of issues such as border disputes, fundamentalism, India’s growing power, China’s regional and global power, India’s growing relations with the West, specifically the United States, the problems of Afghanistan and Baluchistan are considered as the most important issues behind India’s rivalry/enmity with Pakistan and China, which have tarnished the regional relations between these countries and turned into serious obstacles to the formation of port megalopolises. A powerful Pakistan, which enjoys the benefits of economic-trade interactions and strategic alliances with the regional and global powers, can be a strong obstacle to India’s regional hegemony, and India has no choice but to tolerate the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It also cannot rely on Iran’s Chabahar Port so much. As a result, New Delhi will not be able to withstand the current competition, which is directly related to China’s growing influence.
However, although there are several problems in the way of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it is possible to extend it into the neighboring countries given the positive effects of port megalopolises. They could also lead to a geopolitical link between the spatial organization and internal cohesion of these countries, formation of a regional security system based on national interests and reduction of ethnic demands. Given the troubles caused by the Islamic fundamentalism, which has roots in the impoverished and underdeveloped areas of Pakistan and caused damage to the national sovereignty of the regional countries, the formation of port megalopolises in Pakistan, which would control a large share of the international trade, can improve Pakistan’s economic and welfare infrastructure. This improvement can happen only when the officials put the country’s indigenous power as their priority, otherwise it will increase tensions in the political arena and create numerous economic problems for Pakistan and the surrounding area. What is clear is that the formation of the Pakistani port megalopolises along with the development of free-trade zones can lead to a coherent security system for the development of national goals and sustainable security in the region, because the establishment of modern and well-equipped communication corridors between the coastal areas and the central regions as well as the peripheral countries can reduce the threats through partnership and mutual cooperation and shape the peace processes.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the institute’s policy.