China closes key trade route with Pakistan for four months

trade route

GILGIT: China has announced the closure of the Khunjerab Pass, a key land trade route linking Pakistan and China, for a period of four months, in contrast to Pakistan’s recent declaration that the high-altitude road would remain open year-round.

Earlier in October, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing that the pass would be transformed into an all-weather border.

China and Pakistan maintain a strong alliance, collaborating on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that has seen over $65 billion allocated for infrastructure development in Pakistan, including roads and railways.

As per a notice from the Khunjerab Port management in China’s Xinjiang region, the pass will remain closed from December to March. The notice stated that diplomatic negotiations and revisions to the agreement on border ports and management systems would be required between the two nations to keep Khunjerab Pass open year-round, pending official approval from China’s State Port Management Office.

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Until such official approval is granted, Khunjerab Port will continue to operate under the seasonal mode of customs clearance, with regular closure during the winter months from December to March. In the event of specific requirements, the Khunjerab Port management in Xinjiang will apply for a temporary opening of the pass.

During his visit to China last month, Kakar emphasized Pakistan’s intentions to enhance customs and other logistics services at the pass to facilitate trade and people’s movement. He stated that, according to the consensus reached during his visit to Beijing, the Khunjerab Sost land border will be transformed into an all-weather model.

Khunjerab Pass, situated at an elevation of over 4,600 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level, serves as the highest paved international border and experiences seasonal closures due to extreme winter weather conditions. The pass, connecting Gilgit-Baltistan with China’s Xinjiang region, reopened in April 2023 after a nearly three-year closure since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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