China and India Race for Routes to Pakistan by Land, Air

Kashgar, China

The competition between India and China intensified this week, with Pakistan in the middle. China’s established its first air cargo route with Pakistan, while India expands its interstate highways near the border.

China and India are in a race for dominance in the region, especially in neighboring Nepal where both countries have been found lobbying for greater access and control over water and energy resources. The new transport link between China’s city of Kashgar and Pakistan is likely to have set off a flurry of worries in nearby India, as its relations with China are not always friendly and are tense with Pakistan.

The newly opened 90-minute flight runs between Islamabad and Kashgar and is operated by the Pakistani airline, Rayyan Air. The two countries have been ramping up land transport and trade, but this is the first air cargo transport link. Kashgar is in Western China, primarily Muslim, and is well known as a historic center along what was the Silk Road. The Chinese are currently investing in Pakistan’s mining and electricity markets.

Meanwhile over in India, the state of Haryana is building a North-South Corridor of road networks linking Gujarat and Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The four-lane road will be 156 kilometers in total length and will be completed two to three years after construction starts in 2011.

By the time India’s new interstate highways are completed, a well-established land and air link will most likely already exist between Pakistan and Western China, heightening tensions between the countries even more.

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[Image: Flickr user benpaarmann]