After an assessment by scientists from the state-owned China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group Co. Ltd., under the guidance of the institute’s deputy director of capital operations, Zhang Ling, China’s project to connect Kashgar to Gwadar via Kashmir has received the green light.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has green signaled the largest Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) transport project of the railway line between Kashgar in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
China has taken the initiative knowing the strategic importance and the far-reaching impact it will have on East-West trade and communication. The project could cost China 400 billion Yuan, equivalent to 888 tons of gold at current prices or USD 58B.
Although the idea of a railway line between Kashgar and Gwadar was there with the Chinese policy planners when the Karakoram Highway was planned, it was relegated to the back burner for some time, owing first to the COVID–19 and then due to various security issues.
The pandemic is almost overcome worldwide, though, in China, some regions are still affected. Nevertheless, Chinese authorities have found circumstances favoring a rethink of the mega project.
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The proposal for this railway connectivity was assessed by scientists from the state-owned China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group Co. Ltd. under the guidance of the institute’s deputy director of capital operations, Zhang Ling.
Why Is China Making This Huge Investment?
What prompts China to invest in such a massive project? The survey shows that the project has “the potential to reshape trade and geopolitics across the Eurasian continent and should be supported.”
No doubt, this is a remarkable project involving huge expenditure, a skilled and unskilled workforce, and the risk of loss of human lives that usually happens when a project of this size through the difficult Himalayan terrain is undertaken.
It strongly recommends coordination and collaboration between the government and financial institutions in China to raise funds for the project. Notably, the institution has been one of the largest in China and has undertaken many big railway projects.
It is not difficult to understand China’s vision of this 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) railway link. By reviving the Silk Route link of medieval times in its modern form, China will connect its western region with the Arabian Sea.
It means China will bypass the Strait of Malacca, thereby reducing its dependence on the South China Sea. Even in a scenario of blockade of the Strait of Malacca, China’s access to the Eurasian continent and beyond will not come to a standstill.
The railway project is part of China’s BRI. It means that China can connect to transport networks — Afghanistan, Iran, Trans-Caspi, and Turkey and onwards to European countries. Pakistan will be a special beneficiary because the nation will have easier and quicker trade with China. It will be the modern replica of the ancient Silk Road trade.
According to reports, India and Russia are considering an Arctic shipping line to link Southeast Asia with Europe in less time than the Suez and Panama canals.