China, which plans to have a rail link with Pakistan through the strategic Karakoram ranges, has signed another agreement with the country for building two highways in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir close to the Chinese border.
The agreement was signed during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's ongoing six-day visit to China. The two highways are estimated to be built at the cost of Rs 45 Lakh, Pakistan's official APP news agency reported. Under the agreement, China would meet 85 per cent of the cost while Pakistan would pay for the remaining 15 per cent.
China would build the 165-km Jaglot-Skardu road as well as the 135-km-long Thakot-Sazin road in the disputed region. The roads, besides the new rail network across the Karakoram pass into Pakistan, would facilitate free movement of goods between the two countries. India has already expressed its concerns over the proposed rail link.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in New Delhi that "we are closely watching what is happening". Earlier, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said on the issue that it is definitely a matter of concern. "But we are taking our counter measures and we are doing our own preparation."
China yesterday said the Sino-Pak "strategic" partnership was not aimed at targeting any third country. "China and Pakistan are strategic partners enjoying profound traditional friendship. We have shared deepening cooperation across the board," Foreign office spokesman Qin Gang said.
"Our cooperation is traditionally beneficial and not targeted against any third country. Such cooperation is not only beneficial for the two countries but also great for the peace and prosperity of the region," he said.