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China Gives Two Vessels to Pakistan's Navy to Protect New Trade Route

© AP Photo / Muhammad YousufA Pakistan Navy soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship prepares to depart, at Gwadar port, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Karachi. Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.
A Pakistan Navy soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship prepares to depart, at Gwadar port, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Karachi. Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. - Sputnik International
China has given two patrol vessels to Pakistan's Navy and is expected to hand over two more to help Pakistan ensure the security of the sea route of the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The vessels, the PMSS Hingol and the PMSS Basol, were received January 14 by Commander of the Pakistan Navy Vice-Admiral Arifullah Hussaini, the Dawn news agency reports.

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"The ships have become part of the Pakistan Navy from today and the navy will become stronger with the induction of these maritime vessels," Hussaini said.

The handover took place at Pakistan's Gwadar port in its poor and restive Balochistan province. Dawn reports that Pakistan has already raised a new army division to secure the area around the port and the CPEC route. Gwadar City's security is already in the hands of Pakistan's army.

The CPEC is a collection of highway, railway, pipeline and communications projects, the sum of which create an overland trade route connecting Kashgar in far-western China and Gwadar. Hussaini called the economic project a "game changer" for the relationship between the two countries and the handover of the ships a "historic moment."

The CPEC route is part of China's massive One Belt, One Road initiative, a multi-trillion-dollar economic and transit development initiative announced by China in 2013 that aims to link the economic giant to its Eurasian neighbors along the old Silk Road and beyond. China is pouring huge sums into landlocked Central Asian countries as well as parts of the Middle East, North Africa and the Pacific. Pakistan, via the CPEC, is a major recipient of One Belt, One Road funds.

Two more ships are currently being developed, and are expected to be handed over soon.

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China rebuilt Pakistan's Gwadar port and took operational control of it in 2015, when it signed a 43-year-lease. Construction on a large special economic zone surrounding the port began last summer. China's investment in the port is intended to improve connectivity between its western Xinjiang region and to provide sea route alternatives to the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. 

The revamped port became operational in November, seeing two cargo ships laden with containers set off for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the UAE and EU, the Hindustan Times reports.

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