Pakistan seeks closer economic links with Chinese Xinjiang

Beijing: Pakistan has sought closer economic links with China’s far-western Xinjiang region and pledged to assuage the country’s security fears in the wake of recent attacks.

Pakistan was working towards “integrated border management” with China and in creating a trans-regional economic zone with rail linkages between its Gilgit-Baltistan and neighbouring Xinjiang, said Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan. China’s plans to build a Special Economic Zone in border city of Kashgar which will bring two countries closer by strengthening trade links, and pledged support to addressing security concerns. Khan sought to address these concerns in address to China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank.

Masood said two countries were “entwined so closely that any move to hurt China’s security in Xinjiang hurts us simultaneously. Both countries would continue to fight the East Turkestan Islamic Movement ETIM. Our solidarity in this regard is rock solid. No country or force can drive a wedge between us.”

The two countries were also working on upgrading the Karakoram Highway, which was a “priority. Ground work has been done for a fibre optic link, a railroad and more frequent connections by air. This route would then be used for transportation of oil and gas or laying pipelines,” he said.

A pipeline from Kashgar to Gwadar port in Pakistan would “drastically shorten distances for China’s trade that now takes place through the Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits,” he said, adding a rail network from Gwadar to Iran & Afghanistan will also boost regional trade. With enhanced connectivity, Pakistan “will be a bridge between China, Middle East, Africa and Europe”.

Masood said Pakistan was grateful for China’s role in defusing tensions with New Delhi following Mumbai attacks. China also urged the United States “to understand Pakistan’s strategic perspective and to fully acknowledge its contribution in the war against terrorism”, he said. Ambassador said China-Pakistan relationship was “not at the mercy of variations in other relationships.”

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