Strategic importance of new Gwadar International Airport
Editor's Note: The author is Executive Director of the Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, BRI & CPEC. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
The new Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) is one of the many projects being constructed under the flagship of China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC). It is expected to be inaugurated in September of 2023, although a soft opening and a test flight did take place in March 2023. The foundations of this airport were laid in 2019.
According to the Federal Planning Ministry, NGIA is spread over 4300 acres, making it the largest airport in South Asia. It has been envisioned with state-of-the-art facilities and as it is located near the deep sea port of Gwadar, it will act as a catalyst for further economic growth and strategic development.
Moreover, the project costs around $ 230 million, and the entire project was financed by the Chinese government through government grants which further shows the ironclad friendship between the two countries.
The airport not only brings further economic prosperity to Pakistan but also boosts connectivity and strategic cooperation between China, South and Central Asia. As it is spread over a large area, NGIA is capable of accommodating wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus (A-300), Boeing (B-737), and Boeing (B-777) with ease, boosting trade between not only Pakistan and China but also other south and central Asian countries.
Furthermore, as announced by the Civil Aviation Authority, the airport is also set to have the night landing which has been successfully tested. This means that flights can now arrive and depart during night hours which further leads to increased connectivity.
Additionally, many published reports suggest that NGIA is set to be a greenfield airport that will include a modern terminal along with a freight terminal with a capacity of 30,000 tons per year. The freight terminal will also have refrigeration facilities for perishable goods, and it will have features that ensure passengers' convenience.
Hopefully, the airport will be open for international flights later this year, and it is expected that Chinese airlines will also operate from NGIA which would further stimulate connectivity between the countries and the region.
In this regard, according to various reports, Pakistan is expecting an increase of 55 percent in domestic trading activities as this airport will connect different cities of Pakistan with the port and it is also expected that there will be a substantial increase in foreign direct investment after completion and commencement of this airport.
Moreover, according to various estimations, this airport will also create 3000 new jobs in the province which would further improve the life of the locals and reduce unemployment. The real estate sector would benefit significantly from NGIA. The presence of an airport in the region would increase the demand for commercial and residential property by tenfolds, boosting the economy of the region. According to previous reports, the airport would be capable to accommodate 1 million passengers each year, thus showcasing the potential increase the airport could bring in tourism after it becomes functional.