Silk route retraced

Associated Press

Shanghai, April 26:

Forty-five years after it was first proposed, a modern version of the ancient Silk Road that once linked Asia with Europe is taking shape - a 140,000-km web of highways and ferry routes that will again connect the two continents. Today 23 Asian nations signed a treaty on the road system, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. China, Japan and South Korea were among those endorsing the agreement. Other Asian countries were expected to sign later. The Asian Highway Agreement is intended to ensure construction of a road system that would ease the isolation of many landlocked Asian nations and establish a modern version of the ancient trading route that once linked the continent to Europe by camel train.

First proposed in 1959 but delayed by decades of Cold War distrust, the project has been endorsed in principle by 32 countries.

Even as telecommunications links draw the world ever closer, the realities of geography — enormous deserts, rugged mountain ranges and impassable jungles — mean that many in Asia still live in relative isolation. The Asian Highway would be not one road but an entire system of routes that — by land and by sea - would connect Tokyo to Turkey, Bhutan to Bulgaria. A UN map of the highways as planned roughly resembles a spider web strung from Finland and St Petersburg to Khabarovsk and Tokyo.