Pakistan links up with Kashgar
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider
KARACHI, Pakistan - China and Pakistan, which are already working to improve
land communications across their mutual border, have inaugurated the first air
cargo service linking Islamabad with Kashgar in China's northwest Xinjiang
province, with Rayyan Air, a Pakistani charter airline, operating the first
Opening of the Islamabad-Kashgar air cargo route last week came just before
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Pakistan for the Pakistan-China strategic
dialogue to be held in Islamabad on December 17. Ahead of Wen's visit, Beijing
agreed this month to extend cooperation in 36 development projects worth
billion to boost economic activity in flood-hit areas of Pakistan.
Kashgar, located near the borders of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Afghanistan and India, is well placed to become an important air logistics
base. Cargo shipped between China and Pakistan has so far mostly gone by truck
across a border closed from the end of December to May each year due to the
severe winter climate.
The air cargo service will make products of the two countries available the
year round and make markets in Central Asian states more accessible for
Pakistan. It also augments Beijing's efforts to develop the western regions of
China, including Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uyghurs, helped by better
communication with projects such as an extension of high-speed train services
from the eastern part of the country.
Kashgar was recently given the status of a special economic zone and it is
hoped it will become a major trade and transport hub, reviving its position as
an important transit point on the what was the ancient Silk Route between
China, Central Asia and the Middle East and Europe.
Kashgar Deputy Commissioner Wang Yongzhi highlighted the importance of reliable
communication links between Pakistan and China and expressed a desire for
further expanding such connectivity.
"The cargo service operates once a week and the frequency will be increased to
daily flights, based on freight volume," Xinhua news agency reported Wang as
Commercial relations between Pakistan and China continue to grow and
strengthen. This month, the Pakistan-China Joint Committee on Economic, Trade
Scientific and Technical Cooperation (JEC) held its 14th session in Islamabad
under the co-chairs of Finance Minister Hafiz Shaikh and Gao Hucheng, the China
International Trade Representative, Ministry of Commerce.
The JEC agreed to enhance Chinese investment in various sectors of Pakistan's
economy including agriculture, electricity, finance, mining and infrastructure.
The two countries have already established a joint investment company with a
paid-up capital of $200 million for direct investment and joint ventures.
The countries in July signed memoranda of understanding to build two highways
in Pakistan's northernmost region of Gilgit-Baltistan. The projects, worth a
combined 45 billion rupees (US$524 million), would be 85% financed by China,
with the rest paid for by Pakistan. The neighbors also plan a rail link that
will also connect Torkhum in Pakistan with Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
Syed Fazl-e-Haider (http://www.syedfazlehaider.com) is a
development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including
The Economic Development of Balochistan (2004). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.