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China building digital Silk Road stretching from Asia through Africa to Europe

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The final stretch of a cross-border fiber-optic cable is set to be laid by China in Pakistan to create the Digital Silk Road (DSR), serving the geostrategic interests of both countries, RT has reporting Nikkei Asia as saying. It will connect to a submarine cable in the Arabian Sea to service countries participating in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Europe.

Observers see this as a strategic move to circumvent international telecommunication consortiums dominated by Western and Indian companies, according to Nikkei Asia.

The fiber cable will link to the Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea, to service countries participating in BRI, and Europe. It is currently being laid between Pakistan's Rawalpindi city and the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar. The $240-million project, which is in partnership with China's Huawei Technologies, was approved by the government recently.

The laying of sea cable in Pakistan's territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet-service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi.

The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000-kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year.

The PEACE cable will provide the shortest direct internet route between participating countries, and will drastically reduce internet data-transfer speeds. It is expected to help reduce Pakistan's exposure to internet outages from damaged submarine cables by providing an additional route for internet connectivity.

In recent months, the CPEC Authority -- the supranational body that oversees BRI projects in Pakistan -- has accelerated efforts to improve Gwadar's connectivity with major road and rail upgrades. According to Maroof Ali Shahani, chief operating officer of Cybernet, fiber-optic cables will be laid alongside these new links to major national transport routes, connecting the port to the Pakistan's national fiber-optic backbone for the first time.

Pakistan is also looking for an alternate link to the internet through China. At present, most Europe-bound internet traffic from China feeds through terrestrial cables traversing Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

According to Eyck Freymann, author of 'One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World,' the BRI is evolving to place less emphasis on traditional heavy infrastructure, and more on high-tech cooperation and digital services.

He told Nikkei Asia that "Beijing wants to dominate the physical infrastructure underlying global communications, particularly the internet," adding: "This will give it an advantage in internationalizing its tech sector and pursuing future tech-related deals with partner countries."

Silk Road trade on track

Silk Road, also called Silk Route, ancient trade route, linking China with the West, that carried goods and ideas between the two great civilizations of Rome and China. Silk went westward, and wools, gold, and silver went east. China also received Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism (from India) via the Silk Road.

The ambitious multi-trillion-dollar BRI initiative (or the new Silk Road), announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to boost connectivity and cooperation between East Asia, Europe, and East Africa. It is expected to significantly boost global trade, cutting trading costs in half for the countries involved, according to expert estimates.

The latest iterations of this plan, dubbed the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI), includes a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, with primary points in Ürumqi, Dostyk, Nur-Sultan, Gomel, the Belarussian city of Brest, and the Polish cities of Małaszewicze and Łódźwhich, which would be hubs of logistics and transshipment to other countries of Europe.

On 15 February 2016, with a change in routing, the first train dispatched under the scheme arrived from eastern Zhejiang Province to Tehran. Though this section does not complete the Silk Road-style overland connection between China and Europe, new railway line connecting China to Europe via Istanbul's has now been established. The actual route went through Almaty, Bishkek, Samarkand, and Dushanbe.

A record 12,400 freight-train trips between China and Europe were made in 2020, RT quoted the China State Railway Group as saying. That's up 50 percent from the previous year. Last year's traffic marked the first time when freight-train trips between the two destinations exceeded 10,000 per year.

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Abdus-Sattar Ghazali Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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