Pakistan has proposed to sign a five-year cooperation agreement with China’s western Xinjiang province to extend the scope of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) beyond infrastructure and energy projects to commerce and trade.
The CPEC, announced in April last year, is a more than 2,400km long network of roads and rail links that will connect landlocked Xinjiang region with Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s deep sea port in Gwadar.
Chinese delegation inaugurates Gwadar Port Free Zone
Pakistan expressed its desire for a long-term cooperation plan on Wednesday during a delegation level meeting between Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Zhang Chuxian, Member of the Politbureau of Communist Party of China.
Both sides held extensive deliberations to explore more avenues of cooperation between China and Pakistan especially between the latter and Xingiang province of China, bordering Pakistan, said the Planning Ministry.
“There is a big economic and trade potential for Pakistan in Xingiang,” said Ahsan Iqbal after the meeting. He said cooperation between Pakistan and Xingiang could add a new chapter in the CPEC because of their close proximity.
Iqbal proposed a five-year plan for cooperation and partnership in various sectors between Xingiang and Pakistan. “The economic integration and regional connectivity between Pakistan and Xingiang province is critical to making the CPEC successful,” he emphasised.
Army chief reassures China of CPEC security
The minister said the CPEC would not only reduce the distance for West China to trade with the outer world but would also drastically cut down the cost of their products because of faster and cheaper transportation of goods.
Zhang Chuxian extended support to the proposal of five years plan and announced that working group comprising both Chinese and Pakistani officials would work on it. He said the CPEC is a flagship project, which would benefit both countries enormously. The planning minister accepted the invitation of Chinese side to visit Kashgar region.
Chinese delegation also sought clarification on permanent opening of Karokarum Highway after it came to know that roughly 142-kilometer long road out of its 800km length would submerge in water due to construction of four mega dams on Indus Cascade.
Pakistan plans to build Akhori, Bunji, Diamer Basha and Dasu dams on Indus cascade. These dams will affect 142km part of the KKH. The NHA chairman informed that the government has prepared a plan to keep the route open.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2016.