Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The final stretch of a cross-border fiber optic cable is set to be laid by China in Pakistan to create the Digital Silk Road (DSR), Nikkei Asia reports. The DSR is part of the broader Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The fiber cable will link to the Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea, servicing countries participating in BRI, as well as Europe. It is currently being laid between Pakistan’s Rawalpindi and the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar. The $240-million project, which is in partnership with China's Huawei Technologies, was approved by the Pakistani government last week.
The laying of sea cable in Pakistan's territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi.
The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year.
According to the report, observers see this as a strategic move to circumvent international telecommunication consortiums dominated by Western and Indian companies.
The project will provide Gwadar with fiber optic connectivity for the first time. The deep seaport was built by China, which also runs it. It is thought that Gwadar's limited communications infrastructure has contributed to its failure to take off as a regional transit hub.
With the help of China, Pakistan is untangling its growing number of communications lines, connecting Xinjiang and Africa with a fiber optic submarine cable.
Some BRI projects have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic and debt crises in partner countries, including a $6.8 billion railway project in Pakistan. Part of Beijing's response has been to step up digital projects and the development of communications infrastructure.