Monday, 20 April 2015

China unveils plans to build airport on border of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

China is planning to build its first ever airport in Xinjiang, on the strategically important and high-altitude Pamir plateau, close to its border with Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). 

According to Chinese civil aviation authorities, the airport is the first on a high plateau in the city of Tashkurgan. 

The city is the last important place on the Karakoram highway, before it enters PoK. 

Experts from the Civil Aviation Engineering Consulting Company of China visited Tashkurgan last week to choose a site for the airport from the three shortlisted sites.

The airport is set to be located at an altitude of 3,200 metres above sea level, the Xinjiang aviation authority was quoted as saying by China’s official Xinhua news agency. China has built several high-altitude airports — 2,480 metres above sea level — in the past. 

But this will be the first one in Xinjiang, authorities say while adding that the airport will provide crucial access to a remote region. 

Commercial benefit ::
Apart from the strategic importance of the airport, China hopes to transfer resources rapidly to the remote, but strategically important area, by using the airport. 

Tashkurgan is a small trading city along the Karakoram highway with a population of less than 50,000 people. 

The city has assumed more importance following China’s $46 billion economic corridor linking Kashgar in Xinjiang, through Tashkurgan and across into the PoK all the way to the Gwadar port on the coast of the Arabian Sea. 

The corridor envisages road, rail links as well as pipelines which provide a direct source for oil import for China from West Asia and the Arabian Sea. 

The plan has raised concerns in New Delhi as China will lay down permanent infrastructure in PoK, including highways, railway lines and energy projects. 

“The project does not concern the relevant dispute between India and Pakistan. So I do not think the Indian side should be concerned about that,” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao said on Friday. 

The economic corridor is likely to come up for discussion when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Pakistan on Monday and Tuesday. 

Energy projects worth $34 billion and infrastructure projects worth $11billion are expected to come up for discussion during the Chinese premier’s Pakistan trip. 

A day before Xi’s visit, head of Pakistan’s Board of Investment Syed Iftikhar Hussain Babar told Xinhua that the corridor on the Gwadar side, including highways, a free trade zone and a new international airport, would be built in three to five years. 

However, the project has been slow to take off so far amid land acquisition disputes. Highway upgrade Under the corridor, China is also upgrading the 1,300-km Karakoram Highway. 

The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) told Xinhua on Sunday that the work to renovate a 335-km stretch of the road was in the last phase and would be completed by September.

Source; Defence News

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