Work on the multi-billion dollar economic corridor linking Pakistan and China began on 29 November when Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif broke ground for a fenced, four-lane motorway in the country’s northwest.Â
The 60-km-long, 4-lane fenced Hazara Motorway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will cost $297m and take two years to complete, reports the Press Trust of India.
The corridor idea envisages a rail and road network, oil and gas pipelines, and fibre optic cables running from Sinkiang in western China through Pakistan to Gwadar, a strategic port on the Arabian Sea.
India has expressed its reservations over the corridor because it runs through through disputed territory in Kashmir. China defends the project, saying it will help regional development.
During his visit to China in November Sharif agreed infrastructure deals worth $45.6bn. They include projects connected with the corridor.
Security fears surround the scheme, as the Pakistani government struggles to exert control over the north west. For months the Pakistan army has been waging a military campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants in North Waziristan. During his November 8 visit to China, Sharif promised full security to Chinese personnel involved in construction of the mammoth project.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called the economic corridor a "flagship" project to boost connectivity and cooperation between China and its neighbours.
Photograph: Snowy mountains at Ghabral, Swat Valley, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, through which the planned economic corridor will travel (Isruma/Wikimedia Commons)