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China suggests railroads linking Afghanistan, Pakistan

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: China has suggested construction of railroads that would link Quetta and Peshawar to Afghanistan’s modern capital city, Kabul.

Beijing is mulling to cash in on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by linking Afghanistan, the gateway to Central Asia, to the corridor. Quetta and Peshawar, two major cities inhabited by Pashtuns on the other side of the Durand Line, would be linked to Kandahar and Jalalabad through railways in the first phase. The railway track would connect Kabul in the second phase.

According to official sources the proposal was made by the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou in a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani. The Chinese deputy minister stressed on importance of Afghanistan to China’s “One Road, One Belt” initiative.

He suggested that Kabul, Beijing and Islamabad should engage in constructive talks about the proposed new trade corridors through building of railroads.

The Afghan president reiterated that his country wants to have friendly relations with all neighboring countries.

Earlier media reports suggested that Pakistan with support of China would build a railway track from Peshawar, winter capital of Afghanistan till early nineteen century, to Jalalabad.

The Afghan government has decided in May 2015 to launch survey of the Jalalabad-Peshawar railway track. Ministry of Public Works will work with a private company to complete the survey of 75 kilometer track. The railroad is 150 km long but only 75 km pass through Nangarhar province. PKR 60 million has been allocated for the survey which will take eight months. Pakistan is financing the project.

Emphasizing on importance of the railway track project, Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries Muzamil Shinwari said at that time that the two countries should complete the project on time.

On the other hand, most of Afghan economists are of the view that the proposed railway links between Afghanistan and Project would benefit Beijing and Islamabad more than Kabul as the neighboring country is not letting Afghan trucks to carry goods to India via Wagah.

In September 2016, President Ghani warned Pakistan that he would close the Afghan transit route for Pakistani exports to Central Asia if Afghan traders were not allowed to use Lahore’s Wagah border for trade with India.

Ghani said, “Afghanistan is no more a landlocked country as it has many transit routes for the import and export of goods.” He added that Kabul had always made efforts to boost cooperation in the state and wanted Pakistan and other regional countries to remove all technical problems that prove hindrance in economic development. “Pakistan has always shut its routes on Afghanistan’s fresh fruit, causing loss of millions of dollars to our traders,” the Afghan president said.

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