Pak links up with China's Kashgar ahead of Premier Jiabao's visit

Karachi, Dec. 15 (ANI): Pakistan and China have inaugurated the first air cargo service linking Islamabad with Kashgar in China's northwest Xinjiang province, just three days before the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to the Pakistan capital.

A Pakistan charter airline, Rayyan Air, operated the first 90-minute flight, the Asia Times web site has revealed.

The Islamabad-Kashgar air cargo route was opened last week.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Pakistan for a strategic dialogue from December 17.

Beijing has also agreed this month to extend cooperation in 36 development projects worth 13.2 billion dollars to boost economic activity in flood-hit areas of Pakistan.

Kashgar, located near the borders of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and India, is well placed to become an important air logistics base.

Cargo shipped between China and Pakistan has so far mostly gone by truck across a border closed from the end of December to May each year due to the severe winter climate.

The air cargo service will make products of the two countries available the year round and make markets in Central Asian states more accessible for Pakistan.

It will also augment Beijing's efforts to develop the western regions of China, including Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uyghurs, helped by better communication with projects such as an extension of high-speed train services from the eastern part of the country.

Kashgar was recently given the status of a special economic zone and it is hoped it will become a major trade and transport hub. (ANI)

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