ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has inaugurated a special maritime force to ensure security of its new Chinese-built Gwadar port, which is central to a multi-billion dollar economic cooperation agreement between the two countries.
China is investing around $50 billion dollars in Pakistan to help build a network of roads, rails, communication and power projects that will eventually connect the western Chinese border region of Xinjiang to the deepwater port on the Arabian Sea.
The cooperation, dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, officials say, will turn Gwadar into a gateway for imports and exports from Xinjiang to international markets.
Top Pakistani civilian and military officials along with Chinese diplomats traveled to the port Tuesday to witness the inauguration of the "Task Force-88" raised by the Pakistan Navy.
"(It) is aimed at ensuring security of Gwadar port, its seaward approaches, as well as CPEC-related and other maritime projects,"Zafar Mehmood Abbasi, deputy chief of the naval staff operations told the ceremony.
The marine force would comprise "warships, (attack) helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), duly supported by shore-based sensors", he added.
The Pakistan military has already established a "Special Security Division" of around 20,000 personnel for the protection of Chinese workers and land routes being built under CPEC.
The Gwadar port is located in the insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, which also hosts a number of CPEC-related projects.
Pakistani officials allege rival India is funding Baloch separatists in the province in its bid to try to undermine the Corridor building efforts, a charge New Delhi denies. Islamabad also sees Afghanistan-based Islamic State affiliates a threat to CPEC.
Chinese officials say that CPEC is "the major and pilot project of the Belt and Road" initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping.
"We believe the Belt and Road initiative will serve the greatest interests of the international community and this region for common development and shared prosperity," says Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong.
He says 17 "early harvest" CPEC projects are already under "smooth" construction in Pakistan.
"There are more than 10,000 jobs that have been created for the local people with all these 17 projects.In the near future, we can see that CPEC projects will generate thousands of megawatts (of electricity) into the national grid of Pakistan."