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منگل, دسمبر 14, 2010

Pakistan can be China's bridge to the Gulf

 Gawadar will provide China with the shortest possible route to the oil-rich Middle East, replacing the dangerous maritime route through the South China Sea, East Sea and the Yellow Sea.

By Li Xiguang

It was midnight when the plane was flying over the Pamir Mountains. Suddenly, the plane shuddered. I saw the snow-capped Karakorum Range through the window.
A huge glacier canyon rose steeply into the sky, with the icy cliffs standing like a wall. K2, the second highest mountain on Earth, was before my eyes. My heart was beating fast with excitement. I wanted to extend my hand out of the window and touch the snow atop the mountain.
K2 is located on the border between China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the Gilgit-Baltistan Province of Pakistan.
For thousands of years, Buddhist travelers trekked through the snowy mountains on their way to schools in Taxila while the traders journeyed to Arabian Sea ports to ship their goods to Western Asia and Africa.
In order to make the passage through the mountains easier. China constructed the 1,224-kilometer Karakorum Highway in 1978.
Today in Pakistan, Chinese brands are everywhere. In his visit this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is going to open a branch of ICBC, the world's biggest bank by capitalization, in Karachi.
By the end of this year, the trade between China and Pakistan will be worth $7 billion, with an annual growth rate of 29 percent. The growth rate of trade between the two countries is expected to grow by over 30 percent over the next five years and the trade volume could increase to $18 billion.
But the level of economic cooperation does not reflect the close and lasting political and military ties between the two countries.
The trade between China and India has grown much faster than the trade between China and Pakistan. China is India's biggest trade partner. India's trade volume with China grew 16 times between the year 2000 and 2008, with an annual growth rate of 43 percent.
"We are all-weather political allies. Since September 2008, Pakistani President Zardari came to China almost every four month, beating any heads of state in terms of frequency of visiting China," said Pakistan's ambassador to China, Massood Khan, "China has a very positive image in Pakistan. We support China's policy on Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights."
 "But we also need to have an all-weather highway between our two countries," he said.
Two years ago, Chinese and Pakistani engineers and road builders started extending the width of the Karakorum Highway from 10 meters to 30 meters.
Chinese engineers have completed a feasibility study for the building of a railroad and an oil pipeline to link Kashi in Xinjiang and Gawadar in Pakistan's Balochistan Province at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
Sixty percent of China's imported oil come from the Middle East and 80 percent of that come to China through the Straits of Malacca. With the construction of the Kashi-Gawadar railroad and oil pipeline, Gawadar, a warm-water and deep-sea port, will handle most of the oil tankers to China.
It will provide China with the shortest possible route to the oil-rich Middle East, replacing the dangerous maritime route through the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
"Through Gawadar, oil will come to China and goods will go to West Asia and the Gulf, bringing China closer to countries such as Turkey and Iran," Khan said. "The highway will stimulate the economic growth in Pakistan. With the recovery of the legendary Silk Roads through Pakistan, Pakistan will become an economic hub once more."
"If China joins Pakistan in building its desperately-needed power stations, Pakistani people will feel the warmth and brotherhood every night when they turn on the light in their home," Khan said. "In the streets of Pakistan, it seems that everyone knows Wen is coming."

The author is a journalism professor of Tsinghua University and author of the coming book Intellectual dialogues of Tibet.
(Source: Global Times)
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