Islamabad, 12 November, 2023 (GNP): The Chinese government has declared the closure of Khunjerab Pass for four months during winter, a deviation from the earlier commitment to keep the high-altitude road operational throughout the year.
The closure will be effective from December to March, according to a notice issued by the Khunjerab Port management in China’s Xinjiang region.
In a shift from the October 20 joint statement, recent developments cast uncertainty on the previously agreed year-round operational status of Khunjerab Pass.
Questions arise regarding the continuity of arrangements established during the meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Third Belt and Road International Cooperation Summit Forum in Beijing. Clarifications are awaited to address this discrepancy and its implications.
The notice highlights the need for amending and signing the agreement on border ports and management systems through diplomatic channels for the year-round opening of Khunjerab Pass. China’s State Port Management Office will also seek acceptance from relevant authorities for this arrangement.
Until an official notice is issued by the State Port Management Office of China, Khunjerab Port will adhere to the seasonal mode of customs clearance, with normal closure from December to March.
The notice clarifies that in case of special needs, Xingiang’s Khunjerab Port management will apply for a temporary opening of the pass.
Khunjerab Pass serves as a vital link connecting Gilgit-Baltistan with China’s Xinjiang region and holds the distinction of being the highest paved international border at 15,500 feet above sea level.
Traditionally open for travel and trade between April and November, the pass experiences closures in winter due to excessive snowfall.
Despite the season’s first snowfall covering the road with up to six inches of snow, travelers have reported a lack of authorities present to clear the road for traffic on the Pakistan side.
The closure during this period may impact trade and travel, leading to challenges for vehicles carrying import and export items and passengers.