Gilgit-Baltistan:Pakistan forsees a trans-regional economic zone encompassing China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries

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BEIJING, Sept 19 (APP): Pakistan has a special interest in the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Kashgar and Khorgos in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, said Ambassador Masood Khan in his article printed in a leading Chinese newspaper.
In the article in Global Times recently, the Ambassador said “As the Kashgar Prefecture uses its SEZs as a spring board for fast development to catch up with the prosperous Eastern China, Pakistan will be keen to participate in this process”.Early this month President Asif Ali Zardari, he said, visited Urumqi to attend the launch of China-Eurasia Expo 2011. This Expo will build a bridge between China West Asia and Europe, adding Xinjiang is already a bridge between Pakistan and China”.
“Our idea is that we should further extend this concept and establish a trans-border economic zone on both sides of Pakistan and China by establishing manufacturing hubs, trade houses, and clearing houses Pakistan’s envoy Khan wrote in the article titled “New Silk Road will bridge China and Pakistan”.
“This experiment is bound to succeed because of the strong ties between Pakistan and China and multiple economic linkages between them,” he said.
He pointed out that if this experiment succeeds, over time we will be a little more ambitious and try to explore a trans-regional economic zone  encompassing China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. This kind of integrative economic networking will fit well into the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well.
Pakistan and China both aspire to enhance connectivity between them. They will achieve this objective by upgrading the Karakoram Highway, building a 411-mile railroad from Havelian to Khunjerab Pass, install a fiber optic link across the border, and explore lying of oil and gas pipelines that can emanate from the Gulf and end up in China’s western region.
“These objectives are daunting. But the close ties between Pakistan and China, the resilience of our two peoples, and the ingenuity of our professionals gives us strong hope that we can achieve them,” he remarked.
He said that China’s economy is fast integrating with the Western Asian and European economies. China’s trade routed via Urumqi, through Khunjerab and Gwadar and destined for Dubai and London, can save more than 5,000 miles and several days of transit time.
Right now, he said, the bulk of the Chinese trade with the Middle East has to pass through the Indian Ocean and the choking point of Malacca Straits. The distance from Dubai to Shanghai is 9,000 miles; from Dubai to Khunjerab 3,300 miles. The advantage is evident.
He said China is reviving the ancient Silk Road. Several criss-crossing modern Silk routes will pass through Pakistan. Pakistan’s unique location connects China with South and Southwest Asia as well as the Arabian Sea and the Middle East. It also constitutes an important artery to Central Asia.
“Xinjiang and northern provinces of Pakistan will form a key plank in the emerging architecture for new silk routes,” he added.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit- Baltistan border Kashgar prefecture.
Historically, traders from all parts of Pakistan have been coming to Kashgar for various transactions. Every year, Pakistani traders and trade officials form the biggest delegation to the Central and South Asia Commodity Fair.
Naturally businessmen come from Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Kashgar, but they come from as far as Sialkot, Wazirabad, Lahore, and even Karachi. This is so because there is geographical contiguity between Xinjiang and Pakistan’s northern territories. More importantly, their economies complement each other, Ambassador Khan stated.
Social stability and ethnic harmony, Ambassador Masood Khan said are essential for realizing these dreams.
Pakistan and China have vowed to oppose and defeat the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
“Our joint efforts in this regard have been productive and successful. But we cannot lower our guard. We cannot allow these forces to undermine the vision of our two peoples to move swiftly towards a stable, cohesive, interdependent and prosperous neighborhood. We have the political will and support of the masses to make this happen. Nothing should stand in our way,” he concluded.
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