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Khunjarab Pass

Kunjerab Pass, located at an altitude of 4,693 meters (15,397 feet), is one of the highest paved international border crossings in the world

By Liaqat Hussain Published about a year ago 3 min read

Kunjerab Pass, located at an altitude of 4,693 meters (15,397 feet), is one of the highest paved international border crossings in the world. It connects China's Xinjiang region with Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region and is a significant gateway for trade and tourism between the two countries. The pass is named after the nearby Kunjerab River, which flows into the Hunza River.

The construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the 1970s opened up the remote mountainous region to the outside world, and Kunjerab Pass became a major link between China and Pakistan. The KKH is considered an engineering marvel, as it traverses some of the world's most rugged terrain, including the Karakoram Range, which is home to some of the highest peaks in the world, such as K2 and Nanga Parbat.

The pass is only accessible during the summer months, from May to November, due to heavy snowfall and extreme weather conditions during the rest of the year. The road leading up to the pass is narrow and winding, with sharp turns and steep gradients, and requires skilled drivers to navigate safely.

Kunjerab Pass is not only a significant trade route, but also a popular tourist destination. The scenic beauty of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and valleys is breathtaking and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Tourists can take a day trip from the nearby town of Sost to the past, and enjoy the stunning vistas and crisp mountain air.

The pass is also of great strategic importance to both China and Pakistan, as it provides a direct link between China's western Xinjiang region and Pakistan's northern regions. It is a crucial part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to establish a network of trade and transportation links across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The KKH and Kunjerab Pass are key components of this initiative, as they provide China with a direct access route to the Arabian Sea and the Middle East, bypassing the longer sea routes through the Straits of Malacca and the Indian Ocean.

The past has seen significant development in recent years, with the construction of a new border crossing, a modern immigration and customs facility, and a highway tunnel that reduces the travel time between the two countries. The new facilities have not only improved trade and tourism but also strengthened the security and surveillance capabilities of both China and Pakistan.

However, the development of the pass has not been without controversy. The construction of the KKH and the new border facilities has raised concerns about environmental degradation, as the road and infrastructure projects have caused significant damage to the fragile ecosystem of the Karakoram Range. The construction has also been criticized for its impact on local communities and indigenous cultures, as it has led to the displacement of people and the erosion of traditional ways of life.

Despite these concerns, Kunjerab Pass remains a symbol of the close ties between China and Pakistan, and a testament to the human spirit of resilience and ingenuity in the face of extreme adversity. The pass and the KKH have brought new opportunities and economic prosperity to the region, and have opened up new vistas of cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

In conclusion, Kunjerab Pass is a remarkable achievement of human engineering and a natural wonder of the world. It has played a significant role in connecting China and Pakistan and has become a symbol of their shared history, culture, and aspirations. As the region continues to develop and grow, it is important to strike a balance between economic progress and environmental sustainability and to ensure that the benefits of development are shared equitably among all communities.


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