With relations between China and Pakistan growing stronger, the region is in for a period of economic upheaval
By Namra Mansoor
On a concrete wall running along a tunnel in the north of Pakistan, a phrase painted along Pakistani and Chinese flags reads, Long live Pak-China Friendship.
Having more than just ornamental value, the words have become a household chant and serve as a testimony to the time-tested friendship between the two countries. The relations are only growing in strength each day.
Five Pak-China Friendship Tunnels were recently inaugurated in Gilgit-Baltistan region that borders China. Measuring 7 km in length and built with Chinese collaboration, the tunnels are part of a restoration project undertaken on a 24 km-long segment of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) that was destroyed by flood-induced landslides in 2010. Worth $275 million, the five tunnels, two bridges and 78 culverts along the KKH will end the commuting woes of the locals and provide a boost to tourism across the country.
At the tunnels’ inauguration ceremony earlier this month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif highlighted the strategic importance of the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region in the China-Pakistan economic Corridor (CPEC), and how it would boost trade between the two countries through a dedicated road link. Nawaz also announced a budget of $270 million for continued development in the region.
CPEC is a multi-billion infrastructure development deal between Pakistan and China that has set stakes up high. The mega-deal aims at facilitating inter-regional trade between China, Iran, the Middle East, Africa and other regions through a framework of transport and communication lines laid from China’s Xinjiang up to Pakistan’s deep seaport in Gwadar.
In what has become China’s largest international investment deal so far, CPEC showcases the importance and benefits the Sino-Pak friendship offers the two sides.
As beneficial as it is for China, the CPEC is nothing short of a blessing for the trade market of Pakistan as well. Besides trade, transport, logistics, real estate, tourism and several other economic sectors are expected to benefit from the mega project.
With efficiency in goods transportation being the obvious outcome, better road links mean hundreds of thousands of tourists travelling from China will be able to access Pakistan’s beautiful north with ease, bringing back times when foreigners were seen a plenty in places like Hunza Valley and Skardu.
This year Hunza valley witnessed an influx of over 600,000 tourists, according to GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman. The number is certain to grow manifold in the years to come.
Building on the past
Apart from the continued economic cooperation, the Chinese have never failed to stand by Pakistan on the political front. The Chinese government was one of the first to recognize Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and encouraged the international community to help Islamabad deal with terrorism.
The two countries continue to share a common interest in each other’s betterment. In 2010, a Chinese company signed a deal with Pakistan Stone Development Company to regularize import of precious stones from Balochistan, making way for export of tonnes of Cotan beige and Mastung beige quality marble to China. China is also helping Pakistan cope with energy crisis, assisting in the building of six nuclear reactors with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts.
“Development of the CPEC and continued collaboration between China and Pakistan spell a boon not only for the two sides, but the region as a whole. The infrastructural development has ushered a visible positivity in the real estate sector and the effects on other industries are certain to be far reaching as well,” said Zameen.com CEO Zeeshan Ali Khan.