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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) aims to link the landlocked western Chinese region of Xinjiang to Gwadar, allowing ships carrying China's oil imports and other goods from the Persian Gulf to use a much shorter and secure route and avoid the existing troubled route through the Strait of Malacca. Beijing has pledged to invest about $63 billion in Pakistan by 2030 to develop ports, highways, motorways, railways, airports, power plants and other infrastructure in the neighboring country, traditionally a strong ally.

China has positioned CPEC as the flagship project of its $1-trillion global Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, championed by President Xi Jinping. "I want to make it very clear, BRI initiative and with CPEC under it, it's purely a commercial development project. We don't have any kind of military or strategic design for that," said Yao Jing, Chinese ambassador to Islamabad. He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with VOA in April 2018.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decided to close the under-construction Gwadar International Airport in July 2018 due to expansion work on the runway. Gwadar airport would cater to the needs of the Gwadar deep-sea port as it would become the prime venue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It will be the largest airport in Balochistan that will facilitate domestic and international passengers with facilities of international standards. Gwadar airport would have a runway with a length of around 10,000 feet at 150 feed width, enabling it to handle large aircraft and flights. Runway extension work will allow operation of jet aircraft like Airbus A320 at the airport. The government allocated Rs 600 million for this purpose in the current fiscal year while the total cost of the airport was estimated at Rs. 7.6 billion. On 04 January 2017 Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah lauded the raising of a dedicated Task Force 88 for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) maritime security. He re-affirmed that Pakistan Navy would continue to discharge its responsibilities and contribute effectively for ensuring the security of maritime boundaries of Pakistan.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a 3,000-km network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas from southern Pakistan's Gwadar Port to Kashgar city, northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The CPEC will reduce China's routes of oil and gas imports from Africa and the Middle East by thousands of kilometers, making Gwadar Port a potentially vital link in China's supply chain.

Some Pakistani and Chinese analysts have suggested building an energy corridor, including oil pipelines, from Pakistan into western China to diversify Chinas oil import routes and avoid the Malacca Strait. Other Chinese analysts increasingly recognized that geographic and security barriers rendered a PakistanChina oil pipeline unfeasible in the near and medium terms. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an economic initiative raised by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. The Corridor geographically overlaps with China-Pakistan Railway, which starts from northwest China's Kashgar and ends at Pakistan's port city Gwadar. The route of the CPEC is a matter of great concern to people in the vast but underdeveloped Baluchistan Province.

In January 2016, President Xi wrapped up his state visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, releasing further signals to the world on the comprehensive progress and intensive cultivation of Chinas diplomatic layout. The journey to the construction of One Belt and One Road is brimming over with vigor and vitality.

In April 2015, Xi paid a state visit to the nations Iron Brother Pakistan. During the visit, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to an all-weather strategic cooperative partner relationship, and both sides confirmed the cooperative blueprint of1+4, which centers on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC), together with the building of Gwadar Port and energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation.

Located at the intersection of Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Marine Silk Road, CPEC is known as a flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative. President Xi emphasized first deployment, then implementation; China will always keep whatever it has said. After Xis visit, both secretariats of the CPEC joint committee held six video conferences and two working group meetings to implement the deals.

In November 2015, Chinas National Development and Reform Commission and Pakistans Planning Development and Reform Ministry co-chaired the 5th meeting of CPEC joint committee in Karachi. Both sides reviewed the progress of the key projects over the past year, pushing forward further development of the projects.

  • Karakoram Highway, linking China's Kashgar with Pakistan's Thakot, was built in the 1960s. In 2008, the two countries started an expansion project (KKH project) that further stretched the road to Gwadar port. The first phase of the project was finished in September 2015. The second phase has started in 2916. As the only land transportation route between China and Pakistan, the KKH project played an important role in enhancing economic, trade, and tourism exchanges.
  • Peshawar-Karachi Motorway: Early in May 2016, China and Pakistan have officially launched the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway project, kicking off the biggest transportation infrastructure project under the Corridor initiative. The motorway measuring 1,152 km starts from Pakistan's biggest city Karachi, passing through the second largest city Lahore, and ends at Peshawar. The road will not only promise faster trips from the north to south in the country, but also provide easier access to neighboring countries including China, Afghanistan, and Iran.
  • China-Pakistan Railway connects China's Kashgar to Pakistan's Gwadar Port. Karachi to Peshawar and Taxlia to Havelian railway tracks will be upgraded under first phase of the economic corridor. The minister said that the ML-1 railway tracks (Karachi-Peshawar and Taxila-Havelian) will be upgraded in the first phase of the CPEC. The length of existing ML-1 is 1,681 km and it is the 70 percent of the entire railway operations of the country. China's National Railway Administration and the Railways Ministry of Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a joint feasibility study on 23 February 2015 for upgrading the ML1 railway line and the establishment of Havelain Dry Port of Pakistan Railways.
  • Gwadar is Pakistan's third largest port, located on the country's southwest coast. It is one of the most important points along the Corridor. Gwadar Port, which is about 400 km from the Strait of Hormuz, will be upgraded and a 14 km expressway and an airport will be built in the area. China started to provide financing and technological assistance to the port construction as early as 2002. The construction was finished around 2015 and is expected to be put into operation by the end of 2016. The Pakistan authority is currently planning to further build the port into a free trade area. Once completed, the port will open a sea route to northern Pakistan, which may shorten the trip by 400 km compared with the land route.

By 2014 China had allocated funds to do preliminary research on building an international railway connecting the westernmost city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region with Pakistan's deep-sea Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea, according to the director of Xinjiang's regional development and reform commission. "The 1,800-kilometer China-Pakistan railway is planned to also pass through Pakistan's capital of Islamabad and Karachi," Zhang Chunlin said as the two-day International Seminar on the Silk Road Economic Belt commenced on Thursday in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. "Although the cost of constructing the railway is expected to be high due to the hostile environment and complicated geographic conditions, the study of the project has already started," Zhang said.

The railway, which cannot avoid running through the Pamir Plateau and Karakoram Mountains, will be one of the hardest to build but most vital transportation infrastructures on the China-Pakistan corridor along China's newly proposed Silk Road Economic Belt, he added.

The eastern rail route, which would go from Karachi to Islamabad and further north to Kashi, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was more convenient and will cost less. The eastern route, which crosses the more populous regions of Pakistan, would make financial returns easier. A railway generates more economic impact when it passes through more populous regions. On 15 January 2016 the government of Pakistan decided to establish steering committee of construction of CPEC under the leadership of Prime Minister Sharif. Members of the committee include theCPEC committee chairman, the Federal Planning, Development and Reform minister, the Water and Power minister, the Rail Minister, the Transportation Minister as well as Provincial chief ministers. Under the principle of one corridor, multiple passageways, the west passageway of the CPEC is preferential, and should be completed by July 15, 2018.

Pakistan's Ambassador to China Masood Khalid reiterated his country's commitment to the success of the CPEC and said that both countries were working to develop conditions for its successful completion. The ambassador expressed his views during a speech at a seminar on the topic "The broad future of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor" organized by the China Overseas Investment Union, in the context of One Belt One Road initiative, in Tianjin on 13 January 2016. "From the lofty terrains of China to that of Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, this revival of the fabled Silk Road will bind communities and economies together. We are fully aware that CPEC is first in a series of projects linking countries and regions and are thus committed to realize it," Khalid says.

Islamabad will set up a special force of approximately 10,000 troops to protect Chinese people and enterprises along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a visiting senior Pakistani diplomat said on 04 February 2016. Syed Tariq Fatemi, Pakistani special assistant to the prime minister for foreign affairs, revealed the establishment of the force in reply to Beijing's security concerns over the increasing number of Chinese involved in more than 200 projects in the country, including 14,000 engineers and technicians.

"We have decided to create a special force of highly trained military people who will be specially equipped and will have special organizations in concerned ministries backing them, "Fatemi said. "Their task will be to provide the necessary safety and security of Chinese working in Pakistan and the Chinese companies and industries set up there."

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new expressway linking Peshawar and Karachi was held in Pakistan on 06 May 2016.It is the biggest transportation infrastructure project planned for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a key project in the Belt and Road Initiative. With a total contract investment of $2.9 billion, the PeshawarKarachi expressway will be 392 kilometers long with a designed speed of 120 kilometers per hour. The expressway starts from Karachi, Pakistans largest city, in the south, and passes the second largest city, Lahore, before reaching Peshawar, a border town in northwestern Pakistan. The section between Sukkur and Multan was undertaken by China State Construction; upon completion, it will greatly improve traffic conditions in the area and play an active role in connecting China and Pakistan.

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