Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan to work on a landmark rail link
Delegations from the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan have signed a roadmap for constructing a landmark rail link following trilateral talks in Tashkent.
Officials from the three countries held talks in the Uzbek capital to agree on a joint action plan.
The 273 km railway line is expected to run from Uzbekistan via the northeast Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul, Kandahar, and Peshawar. From there, the line will link to the main Pakistan broad-gauge system.
In a landmark event, signed a roadmap for construction of Mazar-Kabul-Peshawar railway, a joint project by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan & Pakistan to boost connectivity, contribute to increased trade, transit & eco coop & realize our shared vision to link Central & South Asia thru ??. pic.twitter.com/j7LbNq65rV
— Mohammed Haneef Atmar محمد حنیف اتمر (@MHaneefAtmar) February 2, 2021
The first stage of the effort will be a joint expedition to survey the route and investigate the terrain conditions.
The parties will also agree on a preliminary feasibility study for the project, including possible finance mechanisms.
According to the Uzbekistan broadcaster Uzreport, various parties have expressed an interest in funding the project.
These include the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The European Investment Bank, The Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the International Finance Corporation.
Any project would also depend on progress in the peace talks currently taking place in Doha, Qatar, between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The railway project is being driven by Uzbekistan, which is looking to establish itself as the main transit hub between Central Asia and Pakistan’s seaports.
According to the Embassy of Uzbekistan in India, the railway creates “unique prospects” for developing and stabilizing the Afghan economy and “forming interregional and intercontinental transit flows.”
The construction of the proposed railway is also expected to reduce the time and cost of transportation between South Asia and Europe.
According to the embassy’s paper, the delivery time of goods from Russia’s border with Kazakhstan and Karachi will be around 16-18 days, saving almost a third.
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