Pakistan and China will soon have a new and alternative short road connectivity as an alternative to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which would be constructed by Pakistan at the cost of Rs 50 billion. The new route funded by the Pakistani government, will be in addition to the Shandur route connecting to China under the CPEC and will help expedite the pace of economic development between the two countries. The route would be around 350 kilometers shorter than the existing via Khunjerab pass. In an official letter written to Gilgit Baltistan’s Works Department (GBWD), it has been asked to prepare a concept clearance proposal for new route which would pass through Shigar, Skardu and Astor districts and connect to Muzaffarabad district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Moreover, the concerned departments in these districts have also been asked to submit the concept clearance proposals for construction of a 33 feet wide truck friendly road from Yarkand at China border to Gorikot in Astor via Shagarthang. This has come after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement of a historic development package for Gilgit Baltistan. The federal government has also included 216-kilometre Shandur-Gilgit road into the Rs 370 billion package. The Planning Development and Special Initiatives Department said the Rs 50 billion road is being considered as an alternative route to CPEC and would be completed under the umbrella of the Integrated GB Development Plan 2021-26. The original cost of the road was estimated to be Rs 45 billion which has not been enhanced to Rs 50 billion. The project’s PC-1 has been submitted to the Planning Commission for subsequent approval from Central Development Working Party (CDWP) and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC). The Ministry of Communication had already submitted PC-1 of the project to Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives for consideration in upcoming Central Development Working Party (CDWP) and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting. The new road would be an all-weather road, providing an alternative route to CPEC during winter when the Silk Route is closed due to snowfall. After Lowari Tunnel, the project will be another top notch and time saving route for traveling to the region. The total length of the road is 363km, of which 216 km are in GB’s territory. Agriculture sector: As many as 18 projects worth around Rs83 billion have been identified in agriculture sector under the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project, with an aim to exploit its true potential and modernize it for the sustainable economic growth. “Agriculture development is the main component of the second-phase of CPEC and both China and Pakistan are determined to exploit this sector for mutual benefit,” said Senior Joint Secretary and Spokesman of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Javed Hammayun while talking to APP here Wednesday. About twelve short, medium and long-term projects identified by the China-Pakistan Joint Working Groups (JWG) are related to Livestock Wing, Ministry of National Food Securty and Research (MNFS&R) and Livestock and Dairy Development Department, six projects are related to research and development to be executed b Pakistan Agricultural Research Council while one project has been identified for the establishment of Aquaculture Park in Costal Areas of Pakistan. Giving break up details, Javed said, through these projects both the countries would cooperate in the areas of capacity building, germplasm resources, agriculture product processing and technology extension, he added. The other identified projects included uplifting of local agriculture sector including fisheries, establishment of foot and mouth disease free zones, and market information as well as agricultural trade, he added. Javed said that the short term projects would be completed in two years time whereas the and medium as well as long term projects would be completed in four to five years timeframe. Besides, the two sides have also signed various agreements and protocols to facilitate cooperation in the areas of trade and research, he said adding that an MoU on Strengthening of Cooperation on Plant Pest and Disease Control was signed during the visit of the President to China in March, 2020. During the said high level visit, Ministry of Planning and Development had also signed an MOU with its Chinese counterpart to bring the two Joint Working Groups (JWGs) including Agricultural Cooperation and Science Technology under CPEC, he added. Javed Hammayun further informed that so far two meetings of JWG had taken place, adding that second Joint working Group (JWG) on Agricultural Cooperation was held via video. Both sides agreed to establish the center for sustainable control of plants pest diseases in Pakistan (Karachi) for which Department of Plant Protection will be the lead Executing Agency. He said that Pakistan and China had also agreed to conduct third meeting of JWG in 2021 in Beijing. Apprising the progress made on different projects finalized by JWG, he said that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMDF) free zone in Bahawalpur Division was established by Punjab, adding that in this regard an updated technical matrix on establishment of FMD Free Zones proposed by Livestock and Dairy Development Department, Punjab had been shared with Chinese side along with invitation to Chinese experts for inspection. Livestock Wing of Ministry of National Food Security and Research has provided requisite information on prescribed questionnaire for export of poultry products to China and invited Chinese technical team to visit Pakistan for inspection of poultry establishments, he added.