New item Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Islamabad to flag off a major bilateral plan. The plan is so far known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The plan consists of several projects:
1. 1. The upgrading of highway from Kashgar in Xinjiang province of China to Gwadar port in Pakistan.
2. 2. Build railway lines alongside the highway
3. 3. Build oil pipeline between the two cities
4. 4. Lay fibre optics cable for high speed communication network in the entire region
This 3000 km long corridor is very significant for entire South Asia and even West Asia. The highway will integrate the Karakoram Highway with Indus Highway of Pakistan. For China this means a strategic passage to the Middle East right next to the Persian Gulf as Gwadar is less than 100 kilometres from Iranian borders. Pakistan has already handed over Gwadar to China and China is spending huge amounts to convert this on the model of Hambantota and Colombo. For India the implication is alarming – the highway will pass through Lahore – a stone’s throw from Amritsar. So far the threat in the West was from Pakistan and post CPEC, the Chinese movement in the West will be additional dimension to the threat. China is already proceeding with the highway and train link from Lhasa to Kathmandu by tunneling under Mount Everest. For Pakistan’s ailing economy this is a boon or enormous proportions as the project involves outlay of US$ 50 billion approximately and most of these Chinese money is to be spent in Pakistani territory. Afghanistan will have additional incentive to be friendly with Pakistan to get access to Western China.