Pak­istan and China launch new trade route

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif yes­ter­day in­au­gu­rated a trade route link­ing south­west­ern Gwadar port to the Chi­nese city of Kash­gar as part of a joint multi­bil­lion-dol­lar project to jump­start eco­nomic growth in the South Asian country.

The Cosco Welling­ton, a ship berthed at the deep-sea port in Balochis­tan prov­ince, was loaded with over 150 con­tain­ers-the first con­sign­ment un­der the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor an­nounced in 2014, which aims to link the Asian su­per­power’s Xin­jiang re­gion with the Ara­bian Sea. The $46 bil­lion project is an ex­ten­sion of China’s “One Belt, One Road” ini­tia­tive and en­com­passes a se­ries of in­fra­struc­ture, power and trans­port up­grades that Islamabad hopes will kick­start its long-un­der­per­form­ing econ­omy. “The par­tic­i­pants of the pi­lot con­voy who have made it to Gwadar are the har­bin­gers of devel­op­ment and progress, that this re­gion is to see soon,” Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif told au­di­ence mem­bers at a cer­e­mony that was also at­tended by pow­er­ful army chief Raheel Sharif and se­nior Chi­nese of­fi­cials.

“Their faces gleam with the beam of pros­per­ity that CPEC will bring about in the years to come,” he said, call­ing the first ship­ment a “water­shed event”.

Pak­istan recorded a 4.7 per­cent growth in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) for the fis­cal year that ended in June 2016, and Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has set an am­bi­tious tar­get of 5.7 per­cent for the cur­rent year. With its dusty moon­scape and shin­ing new port, of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly sug­gested the city of Gwadar is an­other Dubai in the mak­ing.

But the min­eral-rich prov­ince in which it is lo­cated is be­set by vi­o­lence from Is­lamist groups as well as in­sur­gents seek­ing a greater share of the re­gion’s nat­u­ral re­sources and se­ces­sion from Pak­istan.

Se­cu­rity prob­lems have mired CPEC in the past with nu­mer­ous at­tacks by sep­a­ratists, but China has said it is con­fi­dent the Pak­istani mil­i­tary is in con­trol. On Satur­day, at least 52 peo­ple were killed and dozens of oth­ers wounded in a mas­sive sui­cide at­tack at a shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani, some 750 kilo­me­tres (460 miles) south of Quetta, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Balochis­tan prov­ince. The as­sault was the sec­ond claimed by the Is­lamic State group in the prov­ince in as many months, in what some an­a­lysts see as a a sign of its grow­ing re­gional in­flu­ence. — AFP

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