THE weekly flight to Kashgar from Islamabad is good news — especially for Pakistanis keen to visit China just across the border. Pakistani businessmen get a Chinese visa with relative ease. For others, China should not remain a distant dream, and hopefully will not, since, in collaboration with charter service Rayyan Air, PIA began yesterday its service to Kashgar and back. A huge country spread between the Pacific coast and the Tian Shan mountains, China has fascinated mankind since time immemorial.
If nature offers variety from snow-swept Manchuria to the dreaded Taklamakan desert — man has built the Great Wall of China. Among the world’s most hardworking and ingenious people, the Chinese have given mankind four of the greatest inventions paper, block printing, gunpowder and compass. No more a country of coolies and rickshaws, modern China beckons to the world. For Pakistanis, China has the added advantage of being a neighbour. The Karakoram Highway has increased trade between the two countries, and there is tourist traffic too, though not to the desired degree. The PIA Kashgar flight should help swell the number of Pakistani tourists, especially from the southern regions.
However, obtaining a Chinese visa has become a big problem. Beijing’s terrorism concerns must be understood. There was a time when getting a Chinese visa was quite easy. But acts of terror in Xinjiang have made China adopt a more restricted visa policy. This policy needs revision. Kashgar is of special interest to Pakistanis because of its Islamic heritage and cultural affinity. Besides, once PIA begins to operate independent flights, it should hopefully rationalise fares so that flying to Kashgar is not prohibitive. A more liberal visa policy will be in the fitness of things to boost tourism.