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  • » 07/12/2010, 00.00

    PAKISTAN – CHINA

    Kashgar-Gwadar railway line would give Beijing a window on the Persian Gulf



    Such a railway line would allay China’s greatest fear, a naval blockade that could stop oil shipments from Africa and the Middle East. However, major political, technical and financial problems remain, including India’s opposition.
    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese President Hu Jintao met last Wednesday during an official visit of the Pakistani leader to the mainland. They discussed plans to build a railway line from Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province to the Pakistani port of Gwadar. This could give China direct access to the Persian Gulf and make Pakistan an alternative route for Chinese goods and Middle East and African oil, which currently have to go around India.

    The ambitious plan has been on the drawing boards for many years. It has advantages for both parties. Beijing would have direct access to the Arabian Sea; currently, 80 per cent of China’s oil travels through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca, an area plagued by piracy. More importantly, in case of war, China’s enemies could easily block its oil supplies. Pakistan would especially benefit from increased traffic in the Gwadar port, which was built with Chinese capital and assistance and opened in 2008.

    Now the railway, which until recently appeared to be technically impossible because of the difficult terrain, at 5,000 metres above sea level, could be built thanks to the experience and knowledge China has accumulated during the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

    However, Professor Wang Mengshu, a rail expert at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that the Kashgar-Gwadar project would be "more difficult than the one in Tibet" because Chinese surveyors and mappers will not have as good an understanding of the local terrain as they did in Tibet.

    This would also create uncertainties about the cost, which Wang estimates would be around 200 million yuan (US$ 30 million) per kilometre, a bill too great even for Beijing.

    In addition, India is not going to look favourably at closer Sino-Pakistani relations. New Delhi has always regarded Islamabad as its main adversary and Beijing as its main rival.

    In fact, the proposed railway would have to pass through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory claimed by India, and would thus undermine the latter’s its claim. Indeed, important Indian newspapers have described the project as a serious threat to India's security.

    However, the idea still has many supporters in China and many see its completion as only a matter of time.

    People's Liberation Army Navy Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo said China relied too heavily on sea transportation for its oil imports. Hence, "We must either build a much more powerful navy or find alternative transportation channels."

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    See also

    03/07/2013 PAKISTAN - CHINA
    Sharif in Beijing to bring Arab oil to China
    From now until 8 July, Pakistani Prime Minister will be in Beijing to discuss energy and investments. The construction of a road-and-rail corridor between Kashgar (Xinjiang) and Gwadar (Baluchistan) on the Arabian Sea is crucial. This way, Pakistan could solve its energy crisis, but in return, it will likely have to "stop" the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism.

    16/06/2008 CHINA – TIBET – INDIA
    Torch relay arrival in Tibet postponed to a date to be decided
    Official sources say that Sichuan quake has led to change in schedule. Experts suggest instead that fear of protests in the region closed to the press might be the reason. ‘Return March” is set to reach the border between India and Tibet by tomorrow.

    27/01/2011 CHINA – INDIA
    Sino-Indian rivalry comes to the Arabian Sea
    Beijing is developing the Pakistani port of Gwadar and plans road and rail links with Pakistan across the Karakorum. New Delhi backs the Iranian port of Chabahar and is seeking closer ties with Afghanistan and central Asia. The rivalry between the two Asian giants is branching out.

    29/02/2012 CHINA
    Kashgar, Uyghurs and police clash: 12 dead
    Xinhua does not report reasons for the clashes. The World Uyghur Congress say clashes sparked by Uyghurs frustration, colonized and oppressed by ethnic Han Chinese. For China, the groups are "terrorists" and this slows the spread of Islam among the young. The Uyghurs accuse Beijing of wanting to destroy their culture and faith.

    24/04/2013 CHINA
    Clashes between police and civilians in Xinjiang leave at least 21 dead
    The incident in which 15 police officers and 6 civilians were killed remains unexplained. For Beijing, it was a "cowardly terrorist attack". Exiled Uighur groups deny the allegations.



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