Railway a ‘milestone’ for country, region
Pakistan said China's help in upgrading its railway system would help both the country and the region.
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, China will help Pakistan upgrade its railway system, starting with the Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line, or Main Line 1 (ML1).
"The ML1 is another milestone of the China-Pakistan Economy Corridor," Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan Federal Minister for Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.
"It will improve the railway connectivity between China and Pakistan not only for the two countries, but for the connectivity of the whole region … It is a transformational project for the entire region."
Pakistan, which is located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and China, seeks to promote more regional cooperations.
The upgrading of the 1,700-kilometer-long ML1 will be the first phase, with a long-term plan expected to connect the southern port city of Gwadar with Khunjerab, a China-Pakistan border town.
Iqbal said Pakistan hopes the $8 billion ML1 upgrading project is expected to be completed in five years. The Export-Import Bank of China is providing $5.5 billion, with the Asian Development Bank covering the balance.
"Through this rail connectivity, opportunities will surface especially in transporting goods between Pakistan and China," said Iqbal. "This will have a great impact on transport efficiency in Pakistan and provide an alternate route for China to do trade with the rest of the world."
Recent years have witnessed a huge boost in China-Pakistan ties, highlighted by the collaboration on the construction of the Gwadar port.
"We feel very comfortable and very safe in engaging with Chinese companies, and the Chinese government has recommended top enterprises," said Iqbal. "These projects have become a symbol of China-Pakistan friendship."
The railway system is considered the backbone of Pakistan's economy, said Iqbal, adding a coordination meeting is scheduled for November to review the project and provide a framework for mid- and long-term projects.