China has taken control of a strategic deep-water seaport in Pakistan, giving it a potential Arabian Sea naval base and extending its reach to secure its energy and maritime routes.
The Pakistani government formally handed over operations at the Gwadar Deep Seaport to visiting Chinese officials during a ceremony Monday in Islamabad.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said the transfer marks the start of a new era of opportunities for Pakistan and China.
While China helped fund and build the commercial Gwadar port several years ago, it had been run by the Singapore Port Authority. The state-owned Chinese company, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, will now run operations.
The Gwadar port is located at the northern end of the Arabian Sea, with key access to shipping lanes heading west to the Persian Gulf. It will provide western China a shorter route to shipping lanes as opposed to using ports in southeastern China.
Analysts say China has been expanding its naval operations in the Indian Ocean mostly because it wants to secure its oil supplies from the Middle East. Also regional experts agree that as China's economic power increases, its navy will increase as well to protect those interests, raising concerns among China's neighbors.