Published in Greater Kashmir online Edition on May 07, 2008
The cordial relations between Pakistan and China have a long history, but it is in fact the Northern Areas that share ‘Pakistan’s’ 523-kilometer border with China. The two countries concluded a border agreement in May 1962 that laid the foundation for further cooperation between them in various fields. However, the Karakoram Highway (KKH), also known as the Friendship Highway, opened newer avenues. Immediately after its inauguration, it was opened for tourists and traffic started to run on it. Initially, trade was started on a barter basis. In 1985, both governments made an agreement that says:
The commissioner, Gilgit and the authorized department of Xinjiang will be the authorities to issue China-Pakistan border pass for drivers, trader organizations and government departments. Similar authorization will be issued by them for the vehicles permits to travel to the other country.
Subsequently, the Kunjirap Port was opened to the citizens of China and Northern Areas on May 1, 1986 and thus became a full international port. It should be borne in mind that the 1962 agreement had been limited to the people of the Northern Areas and Xinjiang. The 1985 agreement was a landmark agreement that widened the scope of people-to-people contacts and offered immense business opportunities. The Pakistan government set up the Pak-China Trade Organization in Gilgit to regulate travel and trading activities through KKH. This organization established a monopoly over the free trade and a limited group of people were benefiting from it until 1995. Click for details on orignal source: Revisiting Gilgit