12 June 2013
Construction of a rail and road corridor linking western China to Pakistan’s southern coast was agreed last month which could boost trade and development in Pakistan and give China a vital, direct link to the oil routes of the Arabian Sea.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had decided that China would work with Pakistan to step up planning and construction of the project and make it "the highlight of cooperation between the two countries", reports China.org.cn.
The transport and economic corridor would begin in China’s border city of Kashgar, pass through the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and run the whole length of Pakistan to Gwadar port, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, giving access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Gwadar port. (Credit: enuserParanda/Wikimedia)
The link would provide a new direct route from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean, channelling trade through Pakistan.
The first, $248m phase of Gwadar port’s construction, carried out by a Chinese firm, finished in 2006.
It was then operated by Singaporean port operator PSA International until Pakistan awarded the operating contract to China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) in February 2013.
The port has been a failure so far because Pakistan didn’t build the necessary road network that would link the port to the country’s transport network, according Pakistani media.
India has expressed concern over China’s influence over the strategically located Gwadar port.