GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan is an important part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and residents of this region will be provided maximum benefit, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said.

“The Chinese government wishes for the development of the residents through trade activities between GB and neighbouring Xinjiang province,” the envoy said on Friday while meeting a delegation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GBCCI) in Islamabad.

The delegation was led by GBCCI President Nasir Hussain Raki.

The envoy said hydropower projects, Gilgit-Chitral road, Karakoram Highway (KKH) upgradation and maintenance schemes have been initiated in the GB region.

The ambassador said the two governments have approved a plan under the ‘green channel’ to allow imports and exports of fresh and dried fruits including apricot and cherry. However, the Pakistani customs officials are not implementing the mechanism.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region is one of the most attractive areas in the world and its economy could get a boost from tourism and trade with China, he added.

Mr Jing said a plan is under consideration to issue visas to Chinese citizens for visiting Pakistan via the Khunjerab Pass.

The Pakistan-China border at Khunjerab remains open from April 1 to November 30 every year. The GB government issues border pass to locals for visiting Xinjiang.

The envoy said that he will talk to relevant officials for special visa relaxation to increase the stay duration for Pakistanis holding the pass.

He assured the delegation that complaints about the behaviour of Chinese immigration officials at the border will also be addressed.

Talking about the issue of detained Chinese wives of Pakistani residents (mostly merchants) in Uighur region, the envoy said, “The women are being interrogated as Chinese citizens.”

“The issue is not complicated. The Xinjiang province administration has recently started investigation of its citizens who are in a relationship with nationals of foreign countries. The women will be freed after completion of the inquiry process.

The women are being interrogated for security purposes, with an aim to avoid any untoward incident in the country,” he explained.

GBCCI president Mr Raki said traders in the Gilgit-Baltistan region want the volume of trade via KKH to increase as this will open up more economic opportunities.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018

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