China does not make a distinction between foe and a friend.Having no regard for an all -weather friend, Pakistan, China’s trawlers have illegally entered into Pakistan’sBalochistan waters for fishing purpose. Reports from Pakistan suggested that Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee recently held a discussion on fishing by the Chinese trawlers in “Balochistan territorial waters”. The committee made suggestions to curb illegal fishing by foreign trawlers, mainly Chinese, in Pakistani waters depriving its own fishing communities. But nothing has changed on the ground yet.
Fishermen in Balochistan have been suffering at the hands of Chinese trawlers. Last month, a protest was held against the illegal fishing by Chinese trawlers in Pakistan’s Gwadar district. Hundreds of common people took part in the demonstration. The protest was widely reported in Pakistan media and foreign media.
Prior to that ,hundreds of fishermen, political workers, and members of civil society had protested against the presence of trawlers and illegally fishing in their country’s water. There were reports of the federal government granting licence to Chinese trawlers for fishing in Gwadar.But Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on his visit to Gwadar in July had assured that no Chinese trawler was awarded licenses to fish within the 12-nautical-mile limit
Earlier reports of Pakistan giving fishing rights to China in the Arabian Sea near Gwadar port in Balochistan had caused a lot of resentment among fishermen in Gwadar. However, the sea on the Baloch coastline was seen dotting with hundreds of Chinese fishing boats.
In mid July, Pakistan detained five Chinese trawlers on suspicion of illegal fishing near its strategic port city of Gwadar, as series of protests swept across the region led by fishers concerned about losing control of their fishing grounds to China.
Pakistan Maritime Security Agency took the Chinese trawlers, loaded with fish, into its custody and began investigation into their suspicious presence in Gwadar, where China has built a deep-sea port as part of its global belt and road initiative. The outcome of the investigation is still awaited.
The port of Gwadar is considered the gateway to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar Chinese megaproject that invests in Pakistan as part of Beijing’s belt and road initiative of global infrastructure projects. In 2017 Pakistan had surrendered control of Gwadar’s port to a Chinese state-run company, China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC), under a 40-year lease agreement.
However, the resentment among fishermen has not beenbaseless. The government earlier displaced them from their land for the China-driven Gwadar port, which remains out of bound for them due to security concerns.The development of the port prevented local fishers doing their traditional fishing grounds.Concerns were sparked last year when 20 Chinese deep-sea trawlers arrived in the port of Karachi to fish in Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
The locals feel they have lost everything despite China doing investment worth billions of dollars. The Chinese trawlersare commercial ships which contain food processing units for processing and preserving the catch from the ocean. The Chinese trawlers have been doing large-scale operations. The result is that fishermen of Balochistan and of the entire 1,000-km coastline have been facing difficulties in earning livelihood.
Trawlers are associated with destructive fishing as they drag large nets across the ocean floor to scoop up everything. The trawlers are equipped with narrow nets that not just catch the fish but even eggs and everything else as well. Unlike trawlers, fishermen retain what is useful commercially and throw the rest back into the sea. Also, each Chinese vessel can catch over ten times what a Pakistani boat can. After depleting the seas close to home, the Chinese fishing fleet has now been sailing farther afield in recent years to exploit the waters of other countries.
Meanwhile, there are reservations against growing Chinese influence in Pakistan. The Chinese regime has inked deals with Pakistan for several multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects. Analysts say that the exponential growth of Chinese influence in Balochistan Province — with Chinese companies exploiting local resources without care or concern for the impact on locals — is driving serious unrest in the province. For instance, In the Saindak area of Chaghi District, Balochistan, Chinese companies have reportedly extracted copper and gold deposits without any local, national or international supervision.
More over Chinese companies have not invested in education, health or infrastructure in Chaghi District. Projects linked to the BRI in Sindh Province have drawn huge protests from residents in the Thar Desert region after studies showed that coal-mining projects under BRI will be a major air pollutant in South Asia and will expose the local population to serious health risks.
Meanwhile, anger over China’s influence in Balochistan, has spurred Baloch and Sindhi militant organisations to ally with each other, fuelling concern that the combined group will step up violent activities in the region. It is to be seen how Pakistan stops Chinese trawlers from fishing illegally in its waters. Will or won’t it take action against its Akka?