iconimg Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Kashgar, September 11, 2013
Links between Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region and Pakistan have been historically strong through centuries with merchants from both countries travelling and trading via the Silk Road that connected the two countries. The bonds are set to get stronger with both governments –who consider themselves “all-weather friends” --  having agreed to set up the ambitious economic corridor linking Kashgar in northwest China and Gwadar port in western Pakistan, off the Arabian Sea. (The port was built and is now managed by China.)

The two countries are already linked by the Karakoram Highway that connects the Kashgar to Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Around 230 km from south of Kashgar lies the Khunjerab Pass which is the land border crossing between the two countries.

With the new economic corridor, modern links will strengthen older ones.

“It was a natural need for the two countries. When it takes off, the corridor, according to some estimates, could bring around $ 80 billion to Pakistan in trade benefits to begin with,” said Abdul Mujeeb Chaudhry, director, corporate and commercial, Rayyan Air, which operates the only international flight taking off from Kashgar connecting it to Islamabad.

The one-and-half hour flight became operational last August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day and so far is doing well, Chaudhry told HT in Kashgar this week.

Even now, a large number of Pakistani traders and businessmen frequent Kashgar, crossing the border into China in long-distance buses from various cities on the other side; some have had their bases in the city for years.

“Pani pilaye aapko?,” (Can I offer you some water?) asked Ahmed, clad in a Pathan suite that set him apart from the local Uyghurs, as he delicately laid out golden earrings, rings, trinkets and tiny bottles of perfume from Pakistan on a tray in his little kiosk.

Around him the old bazaar of Kashgar was in thick flow last Sunday noon with sellers making a pitch for everything from Uyghur tea, mink coats (for about Yuan 3000), women’s stockings, carpets and pillows and blankets with local-style embroidery on it.

Two shops down the crammed market, Rashid Khan was another Pakistani selling an identical assortment of women’s jewellery and perfume. Business is okay, both said, as they enthusiastically broke into Hindi, a language rarely spoken in the city of Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kazaks, Kyrgyz, and course the Han Chinese.

Ahmed said he was from Faisalabad and was doing business in Kashgar for the last 10 years, selling his wares, which he claimed, were made in India.
The corridor would further strengthen economic ties between the two countries and also generate employment in Pakistan, said Latif Khan, another Pakistani trader.

Kashgar’s direct India connection has long been relegated to history. Till 1947, the British ran a consulate in the city, located close to the Id Kah mosque and behind the Qinibagh hotel. The Communist Party of China (CPC), according to the plaque outside the building, allowed India and Pakistan to jointly use it for a few years till the facility was revoked in the early 1950s.

The original colonial building still exists today but instead of diplomats and diplomatic cables it now has Chinese chefs and menu cards –it now houses a Chinese restaurant.


‘No more pointless awards’

Beijing:  China on Wednesday said it will ditch 76 pointless official — and sometimes obscure — awards as it seeks to rein in waste and extravagance, part of President Xi Jinping’s crusade against corruption.

Government departments will, for example, no longer be able to award prizes for “excellent vocational education teaching materials” or “administration in accordance with the law” for tax collectors, according to the new rules. “In recent years, many government departments ... have been obsessed with these kinds of awards and evaluations and formalism has run rampant,” the central government said.     REUTERS