Pakistan, Uzbekistan vow early work on rail project

Published May 9, 2024
Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on May 8, 2024. — PID
Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on May 8, 2024. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Uzbekis­tan on Wednesday underscored their commitment to the swift completion of the planned railway link that will traverse Afghanistan, connecting the two countries and promising to enhance regional connectivity and trade opportunities.

Foreign Office, in a media sta­tement after a meeting between visiting Foreign Minister of Uzb­e­kistan Bakhtiyor Saidov and Deputy Prime Minister and Fo­­reign Minister Senator Ishaq Dar said, “The two sides reaffirmed commitment to early implementation of the Uzbekistan-Afghan­istan-Pakistan Railways project, which would give boost to bilateral and regional trade and become a bridge between South and Central Asia.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his meeting with FM Saidov also emphasised the importance of the railway project and Pakistan’s commitment to its early completion.

Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan had in February 2021 agreed to build a railway line across Afghanistan to connect Central Asia with Pakistani ports at an estimated cost of $4.8bn. In July last year, the three countries signed a protocol during their meeting in Pakistan that delineated the route of the project running from Termiz, Uzbe­kistan, Afgh­anistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif and Logar provinces, and culminating in Pakis­tan via the Kharlachi border crossing in the Kurram district.

Uzbek FM Bakhtiyor meets PM Shehbaz, FM Dar

The railway project, spanning 760kms, is scheduled for completion by the end of 2027, with the capability to transport up to 15 million tonnes of goods annually by 2030. This rail link will notably decrease cargo delivery time between Uzbekistan and Pakistan by around five days, while also slashing transportation costs by at least 40 per cent.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, according to PMO, expressed Pakistan’s commitment to working with Uzbekistan to speed up and complete all bilateral trade and connectivity projects.

He reaffirmed Pakis­tan’s readiness to provide access to Uzbekistan to Pakistani ports.

At the bilateral meeting, the two sides discussed at length bil­ateral economic cooperation, tra­de, investment and connectivity.

They noted that following operationalisation of Transit Trade Agreement, bilateral trade has increased 1.4 times during the previous year and has the potential to reach the targets set during the last Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) held in Tashkent in February 2023.

Both sides agreed to identify new areas of economic cooperation and emphasised the importance of a liberal visa regime especially for the business community to promote linkages and people-to-people contacts, the FO said.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2024

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