Taking forward plans build an economic corridor from China’s far-western Xinjiang region to the Gwadar port in Pakistan will be “a major goal” of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China this week.

Mr. Sharif, who will arrive here on Wednesday on a six-day visit — his first after his election victory in May — told Chinese media that the corridor would “change the fate of the region”.

Both sides were planning a series of special economic zones, a rail link and a pipeline running from the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar to the old Silk Road town of Kashgar in Xinjiang’s western border, Mr. Sharif was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post on Sunday.

“The economic corridor taking off from Kashgar to Gwadar is a game changer as far as this region is concerned,” he said. “We expect the corridor will become a very important economic hub.”

Plans to push the long-discussed corridor also figured in May’s visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Pakistan, which followed his trip to New Delhi.

Analysts say the difficult terrain and intermittent instability in the region pose serious challenges to the plan. China, however, is keen to pursue the project as it will provide a valuable alternate route for its energy imports from West Asia.

China has already invested in upgrading the Karakoram Highway which runs westward from Xinjiang, and is carrying out development projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which borders the western Chinese “autonomous region”. India has voiced its concerns about the economic corridor as it envisages rail and road links that will pass through PoK.

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