Islamabad (Khyber Mail): In an unexpected turn, the Chinese government has declared the closure of Khunjerab Pass for a four-month period during winter, overturning its previous commitment to keep the high-altitude pass open year-round.
The decision conveyed through a notice issued by the Khunjerab Port management in China’s Xinjiang region, stipulates the closure from December to March.
This development contradicts the joint press statement issued on October 20, following a meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which had affirmed the year-round operational status of Khunjerab Pass.
According to the notice, the closure aligns with the “Port Entry and Exit Management Measures,” prompting both countries to revisit and sign the agreement on border ports and management systems through diplomatic channels. China’s State Port Management Office will seek approval for the year-round operation of Khunjerab Port from relevant authorities.
Until an official notice is issued by China’s State Port Management Office, Khunjerab Port will adhere to its seasonal customs clearance mode, closing from December to March. However, the management of Xinjiang’s Khunjerab Port has expressed intentions to facilitate temporary pass openings for special needs during this period.
The sudden shift in operational plans for Khunjerab Pass raises questions about the impact on trade, diplomatic relations, and the region’s connectivity. Both countries will need to address these concerns and swiftly engage in diplomatic discussions to reach an agreement that ensures the smooth operation of this vital passageway.