The world is aggressively making efforts towards global supply chain integration and in pursuance thereof, countries are not only progressing to explore new avenues and routes but are also adapting to latest technological advancement.
The G20 summit is a recent example that showcases countries urge to integrating themselves in the global supply chain in order to attain regional competitiveness and hegemony; India has been successful in brokering a deal to connect, rather integrate, its ports with Middle East and Europe. This deal would help boost international trade amongst Europe, Middle East and India in a cost-effective manner and would also help Indian ports to attain regional hegemony over its neighboring ports of Pakistan and Iran in particular. From political and power dynamics, collaboration of the trio would help curtail growing economic and trade empowerment of China and for United States to appear as an alternative trade and investment partner. Moreover, such strategic connectivity carries the potential of unlocking new opportunities for the concerned stakeholders in terms of investment, trade, energy, mobility of resources, and cultural exchange.
India, with much less strategic and economic leverages with ports as compared to the ports of Pakistan, is efficiently and effectively utilising its ports and making considerable progress with time. Examples of which could be that India has been able to drag away the title of the largest ship wrecking industry from Pakistan and India has, at its own, marked Mundra port as one of the largest commercial ports in India. Pakistan, unfortunately, has failed to efficiently project to the world the strategic vitality of its ports and has not been able to develop its ports for its own progress, let alone for the larger benefit of the region. China foreseeing the potential in ports of Pakistan and Pakistan as a link road with central Asia has been making considerable investment towards the development of the ports and infrastructure in Pakistan; however, Pakistan needs to provide a much more stable, reliable, and friendly environment for the world to trust their investments and trade with Pakistan.
It needs to be clarified that when drawing India and Pakistan comparison, most of the influential factors can be treated as silent given the similarity and consequences of such factors. This merely allows for a fairer evaluation and assessment between the two States and makes it easier to highlight the major factors for consideration.
Moreover, another important element in any development process is technological advancement. Undoubtedly, since the successful pilot testing of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) and anticipating more digitalisation as artificial intelligence continues to make substantial advancements, stakeholders are pacing up their efforts to achieve competitive advantage at seaports. The motive remains to make ports technologically and infrastructurally compatible with MASS.
In view of the foregoing factors, strengthened diplomatic relations for enhanced integration in the global supply chain, and technological compatibility to meet futuristic requirements of ships, Pakistan should consider its own interest and role in terms of durable and sustainable development that could help achieve port economic development, growth, and infrastructural transformation to facilitate integration in the global supply chain. It should also focus on providing safe, stable, and cooperative economic, political, and financial environment to the foreign terminal operators to ensure higher rate of return on investment.
Recently, the UAE government has entered into a fifty-year concession agreement with Pakistan to handle Karachi Port Terminal. The two stakeholders envision economic prospects to be achieved from such a collaboration–Pakistan foresees an annual revenue of $7 million and Abu Dhabi Ports envision securing strategic trade routes with the aim of integrating its business models in the region. The arrangement as much as is important to Pakistan yet more important is the strategic choices and governance models adopted at the port.
Pakistan needs to enhance its capacity in this regard for reduced dependability later in future and to make a comprehensive assessment as to the governance models that best suits its own needs and requirements given every terminal operator has its own tools, policies, solutions, and platform to achieve desired results.