Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Sunday inaugurated a trade route linking Gwadar port to the Chinese city of Kashgar as part of a joint multi-billion-dollar project (CPEC) to jumpstart economic growth in the South Asian country.

The Cosco Wellington, a ship berthed at the deep-sea port in Balochistan, was loaded with over 150 containers – the first consignment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor announced in 2014, which aims to link the Asian superpower’s Xinjiang region with the Arabian Sea.

The $46 billion project is an extension of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and encompasses a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades that Islamabad hopes will kick-start its long-underperforming economy.

“The participants of the pilot convoy who have made it to Gwadar are the harbingers of development and progress, that this region is to see soon,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told audience members at a ceremony that was also attended by army chief Raheel Sharif and senior Chinese officials.

“Their faces gleam with the beam of prosperity that CPEC will bring about in the years to come,” he said, calling the first shipment a “watershed event”.

Pakistan recorded a 4.7 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) for the fiscal year that ended in June 2016, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has set an ambitious target of 5.7 percent for the current year. With its dusty moonscape and shining new port, officials have repeatedly suggested the city of Gwadar is another Dubai in the making.

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