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Pakistan planning to lay 135 km-long optic fibre cable to evade Indian surveillance?

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October 1, 2017

Pakistan and China are expected to lay a 135 kilometre-long cross-border optical fibre network as part of the Long Term Plan (KTP) for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Dawn reported on Sunday. The project, costing $44 million, is also driven by Pakistan’s fears of surveillance by Indian authorities in its communications network as much of the optical fibre network in Pakistan has been laid by a consortium of companies which includes Indian firms.

Revealing details of the 21-page LTP document, Dawn reported that the network overhaul includes an upgraded communications framework that would constitute elements like fibre optic cables directly connecting Pakistan and China, submarine landing station to facilitate flow of internet traffic, digital TV et al.

The two countries hope to finish the project by 2030. The project, according to the report, will also improve connectivity in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Although Pakistan laid down several developmental factors as motivation behind the overhaul, its primary concern appears to be the internet traffic flow to and from the country.

At present, Pakistan internet connectivity with the outside world is dependent largely on undersea fibre optic cables. More importantly, the developers behind the current fibre optic network is a consortium of companies including Indian firms that are either partners or shareholders.

The report said Pakistan’s Director General Special Communications Organisation (SCO), Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa in January this year made a submission before the Pakistani National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology. He said that some part of incoming and outgoing Pakistani internet traffic had “landed” in India, and thereafter it was routed to the various destinations.

China, on its part, has also invested heavily in the CPEC corridor and a communications network will also help meet its international telecommunications service demand. Also, this would grant greater strategic cooperation between India’s neighbours that could have far reaching consequences for either of the parties.

The report highlighted that the Chinese internet regulation model could also impede information access and freedom of expression to Pakistan nationals.

Dawn reported that according to the LTP document, the new fibre optic network will start from Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County of China and cover 135 km to connect to Pakistan. From that point, the network will run through Khunjerab and subsequently to regions like Sust in Gilgit-Baltistan, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

India has maintained its opposition to the CPEC project and all its sub-projects as they pass through Pakistan occupied regions, including Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.(The indian express)

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