Pak­istan, China launch new trade route

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

GWADAR: Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif on Sun­day in­au­gu­rated a trade route link­ing south­west­ern Gwadar port to the Chi­nese city of Kash­gar as part of a joint multi-bil­lion­dol­lar pro­ject to jump-start 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 Chi­naPak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) an­nounced in 2014, which aims to link the Asian su­per­power’s Xin­jiang re­gion with the Ara­bian Sea.

The US$46 bil­lion (RM199.2 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 kick-start 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.

Pak­istan recorded a 4.7% growth in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct for the fis­cal year that ended in June 2016, and Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has set an am­bi­tious tar­get of 5.7% 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 750km south of Quetta, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Balochis­tan prov­ince. – AFP

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