Sunday, November 15, 2015

China's new Silk Road: boom or dust for Pakistan?

THE PENINSULA QATAR - November 15, 2015 

Sost, Pakistan: A glossy highway and hundreds of lorries transporting Chinese workers by the thousands: the new Silk Road is under construction in northern Pakistan, but locals living on the border are yet to be convinced they will receive more from it than dust.  The town of Sost is gateway to millions in customs duties, with its rickety stalls of corrugated iron engraved in Mandarin and Urdu, its cross-border secret agents and its dusty petrol station's abrupt service.  It is the first stop along a new $46 billion "economic corridor" designed by China in Pakistan.  Drivers from China arrive through the Khunjerab Pass, the world's highest paved border crossing at 4,600 metres (15,000 feet) above sea level, and unload their goods encircled by the magnificent Karakoram mountains, swirled with snow.  From there, Pakistani colleagues pick up the goods and transport them the length of the country -- currently to Karachi, some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away on the Arabian Sea, but in the future to Gwadar, where Beijing has been given management of the port in a grand project allowing China greater access to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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