The Chinese funded fiber optic route that runs along Pakistan and China-Pakistan occupied Kashmir is scheduled for completion by June 2018, authorities informed. The high-speed communication route along the economic corridor, as it is called, connects Western Chinese provinces to the port of Gwadar in Karachi, Pakistan. China’s ambitious project called One Belt One Road is aimed to reduce the transportation costs for Chinese companies operating in African countries, which otherwise would pass through the Indian Ocean and South China sea before reaching to the Eastern ports of mainland China. The current route of 820 km from Rawalpindi to Khunjrab would cost around US$44 million.
The fiber optic cables are laid to ensure communication along the route, to monitor the safety of Chinese vehicles, which would also provide interconnectivity in Pakistan. Both China and Pakistan consider this route as a strategic development to challenge their common rival India in the Indian subcontinent. Some part of the fiber optic route passes through regions that were captured by Chinese military and subsequently handed over to Pakistan or kept in possession during India-China war in 1962.
China builds the route for its own purpose and the infrastructure development in Pakistan is a result of the Chinese strategy to reduce transportation cost for their companies. Pakistani administration considers the project as a win over its rival neighbor India. Pakistani officials predict that the project will result in the creation of upwards of 700,000 direct jobs between 2015–2030, and add 2 to 2.5 percentage points to the country’s annual economic growth. Were all the planned projects to be implemented, the value of those projects would be equal to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970 and would be equivalent to 17% of Pakistan’s 2015 gross domestic product.
The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor often referred to by the acronym CPEC, is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of US$46 billion, intended to rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. The corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative, and the importance of CPEC to China is reflected by its inclusion as part of China’s 13th five-year development plan.
Infrastructure projects under the aegis of CPEC will span the length and breadth of Pakistan, and will eventually link the city of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways. Proposed infrastructure projects are worth approximately $11 billion, and will be financed by heavily-subsidized concessionary loans that will be dispersed to the Government of Pakistan by the Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
As part of the broad package of infrastructure projects under CPEC, a 1,100-kilometer long motorway will be constructed between the cities of Karachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 kilometers per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. A network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will also be laid as part of the project, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to eventually transport gas from Iran.
Chinese telecommunication firm Huawei and Special Communication Organization (SCO) handles the project. The project would help the unexplored areas of occupied Kashmir for trade, tourism and Information Technology (IT) and would create economic opportunities. Around 18.2 kilometers portion of the optic fiber cable would pass through federal capital, 466 kilometers from Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 280 kilometers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), and 47 kilometers from Punjab. The optical fiber cable would reach Rawalpindi from Khunjrab via Karimabad, Gilgit, Chilas, Babusar Top, Naran, Mansehra, and Jery Kas. A project to expand the fiber cable up to Gawadar port was in the final phase of approval.