ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will discuss Trans Afghan Railway project with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, official sources told Dawn.

The proposed 573-km-long railway line will be laid from Peshawar to Kabul and from Kabul to Uzbekistan via Mazar-i-Sharif.

The agenda of the meeting includes topical issues of bilateral practical partnership and regional interaction.

Besides trans-Afghan railway, the meeting will focus on increasing the volume of bilateral trade, expanding cooperation between leading enterprises and companies of the two countries, resuming air traffic, developing interregional contacts and cultural and humanitarian exchanges.

The leaders of Uzbekistan and Pakistan will also exchange views on cooperation within the framework of international organisations, and consider the schedule of upcoming events.

Following the summit, a number of joint documents in the political, trade and economic, transport, communication and educational spheres will be signed.

Uzbekistan and Pakistan have already showed resolve to enter into a preferential trade agreement and cooperate in shipping, textile, engineering and information technology sectors.

The governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan had in February signed a ‘roadmap’ strategic plan to construct a new 573-km-long trans-Afghan railway that will connect Central Asia with ports on the Arabian Sea.

Under the agreement, the three sides will conduct a joint survey of the route and its terrain, as well as a preliminary feasibility study for the project.

The line will run from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, via Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan, and will connect with the existing Termez, Uzbekistan – Mazar-i-Sharif cross-border line, which opened in January 2012, offering a direct rail link between Pakistan and the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

Estimated 27 stations, 912 artificial constructions and seven tunnels will be established to facilitate cargo movement.

“The railway link will be crucial to economic development of the three countries, Central Asian Republics and will help strengthening the regional ties”, an official said.

Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chahudhri when contacted confirmed that a virtual meeting was scheduled to take place between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Uzbek President on April 14.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2021

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