Asia - Pacific

2 Pakistani coastguards killed by Balochistan landmine

Blast occurs near Chinese-operated deep-sea port in Pakistan's strategic coastal city of Gwadar

09.01.2016
2 Pakistani coastguards killed by Balochistan landmine

KARACHI, Pakistan

Two Pakistani coastguards were killed and another three injured on Saturday by a landmine blast in Gwadar, a coastal town in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, according to local officials.

The incident occurred in Gwadar’s Jewani district when a coastguard patrol vehicle struck a landmine, killing two troops immediately, district police chief Tariq Khiljji told reporters.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, although previous attacks on security forces have been carried out by Baloch separatists who demand secession of the mineral-rich province from Pakistan.

Strategic

With its 600-kilometer-long coastline, the port city of Gwadar is home to a deep-sea port currently operated by China, providing the latter with direct access to the Indian Ocean.

During a visit to Islamabad last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled plans to build a $46-billion "Pakistan-China Economic Corridor" (PCEC) linking Gwadar’s deep-sea port to China's northwestern Xinjiang province via a network of roads, railways and pipelines capable of transporting cargo, oil and gas. 

The planned corridor will not only provide China with cheaper access to Africa and the Middle East, but will also earn Pakistan billions of dollars by providing transit facilities to the world’s second largest economy.

The ambitious joint venture, however, has irked South Asian powerhouse India, which sees the project as a potential threat to its own interests in the region.

The corridor project also faces opposition from Baloch separatists, who view it as a bid by Islamabad -- with China’s help -- to expropriate the province’s resources.

In the past, Chinese workers have been attacked, killed and kidnapped in southwestern and northwestern Pakistan -- including the area near Gwadar -- by Baloch separatists and Taliban militants.

Pakistan’s large Balochistan province, which shares borders with both Iran and Afghanistan, is seen as strategically vital due to its abundant natural resources, which include copper, zinc and natural gas.

For over six decades, Balochistan has been beset by violence, with Baloch separatists claiming the province was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947.

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