In December last year, a meeting of the railway administrations’ heads of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan was held in Tashkent. The agenda included a topical issue, the importance and significance of which, without exaggeration, can be called historical – the implementation of the project to build the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway line. This road can become part of the Eurasian concept of interconnectivity, which is currently supported by the EU.
Following the meeting, a Protocol was signed on the establishment of a joint working group and a financial consortium between the railway administrations of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The importance of the new railway line is caused by the need to address the issue of finding alternative land routes. By these routes, cargo can be delivered to Europe and in the opposite direction.
The solution to the lack of a railway linking India and Pakistan with other countries could be the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Khulm-Puli-Khumri-Doshi-Surabai-Jalalabad-Torkham railway line (Pakistan) through the Afghan capital Kabul. It will become a transport corridor connecting EU, Russia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the states of Southeast Asia.
Another favorable factor for the implementation of the project is the construction of high-voltage power lines Surkhan – Puli-Khumri – Doshi – Surabai – Djelalalabad – Peshawar (Pakistan) along the proposed railway. It means, there is the possibility of building an electrified railway with the positive sides arising from this.
In addition, Uzbekistan is now actively exploring the possibilities of implementing another project – the creation of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat railway corridor. The implementation of this project will provide 30,000 Afghans with jobs and will allow Kabul to annually make a profit of $400-500 million from transit.
According to preliminary data, the implementation of this project will make it possible to increase the trade turnover of Afghanistan by about 50 percent. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to provide access to promising markets in almost all directions for Afghanistan and the countries of Central and South Asia.
As for the loading of this road, in the first years it could be about 5 million tons, and later this figure could increase to 15 million tons. The length of the new line will be about 2,000 kilometers. The total cost of the project, which will allow the creation of a railway analogue of the Trans-Afghan road corridor from Europe with access to India, China, Iran and Pakistan, is about $ 3 billion.
The establishment of a financial consortium and joint working group between the railway administrations of Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan could one day lead to the creation of a Russia-Pakistan (RuPak) railway via Central Asia that would complement the Indo-Iranian North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) to Russia but also potentially replace it in the event that American Hybrid War pressure leads to that latter project stalling or even being outright cancelled.
Along with other numerous issues related to enhancing trade, commerce cooperation as well as security arena, this issue topped in the discussions between the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiev with Pakistani leadership during his visit to Islamabad in the end of May. He was accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Uzbek Deputy Ministers for Transport, Railways, and Foreign Investment & Trade as well as other senior officials. Earlier, during the day, the deputy prime minister and his delegation called on Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In is meeting with Pakistani Railways’ Minister Sheikh Rasheed, the host Minister invited the Uzbekistan Railways to invest in projects of Pakistan Railways (PR). During the meeting Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to further increase cooperation between the two countries in railways sector as there were a lot of opportunities for both the countries to have strong trade and economic relations.
The deputy prime minister of Uzbekistan said Peshawar-Kabul-Mazar Sharif railway line project was important for the region. The railway cooperation was essential in the region for the promotion of trade between Central Asian states and Pakistan. He fully supported all the projects of Pakistan to link the region with railway track. He added that rail link was very important for peace in Afghanistan and to eliminate poverty from the region.
Moreover, both the countries also to strengthen bilateral trade, setting the target of touching $300 million as trade volume. The two sides discussed implementation of the decisions taken by their leaderships in previous high-level meetings. Pakistan wants to strengthen relations with Central Asian states. Uzbekistan’s ministers for Transport, Investment and Foreign Trade also attended the meeting.
In a meeting both the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Majidovich Ganivev discussed matters related to mutual interest including regional security and connectivity. The Army chief said Uzbekistan was a brotherly country and cooperation between both would not only help in improving peace and stability in the region, but also usher in economic prosperity as well. The visiting dignitary appreciated the role of Pakistan Army in battling the scourge of terrorism in the country and for maintenance of peace and stability in the region.
In another meeting Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar underlined that establishing transport and energy corridors would not only enhance regional connectivity but also boost trade and investment. Uzbek companies can develop production lines in special economic zones under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework for mutual benefit of both countries.
The minister highlighted that by 2050 electricity demand in Pakistan would reach 50,000 MW adding that Pakistan was committed to CASA-1000 energy project being financed by World Bank. He apprised that Pakistan was planning to upgrade its railway system from Peshawar to Karachi to further boost economic activities.
The visiting dignitary informed that Uzbekistan had constructed a railway line from Tashkent to Mazar-e-Sharif which can be extended to Peshawar thereby enhancing regional connectivity and trade. The Minister stressed the need to strengthen regional connectivity through various road and railway infrastructure projects to the benefit of all member countries. The Minister noted that bilateral trade between the two countries had increased significantly in the last two years which could be enhanced to $1 billion by exploiting potential in various areas.
Makhdum Khusro appreciated that visiting business delegation would have an opportunity to meet Pakistani business community to explore more possibilities for future cooperation that will set in motion the launching of joint ventures in different fields. The minister also called for regular exchange of business delegation between the two countries to further cement bilateral economic partnership.
In such an interaction both Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to intensify the endeavours for enhancement of bilateral economic relations through joint ventures in mutually identified areas including agriculture, textile, automobile, fisheries and IT sectors. The bilateral ties were discussed during the meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the visiting Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, Elyor Ganiev who conveyed the greetings and good wishes of the Uzbek foreign minister.
Foreign Minister Qureshi outlined Pakistan’s vision for deeper engagement with Central Asia and the importance of Uzbekistan in this context. During the delegation-level talks, the two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and considered proposals to further enhance mutual trade, defence cooperation, energy collaboration and regional connectivity.
They also reviewed implementation of the decisions taken during the previous interactions held between the leadership of the two countries, especially the most recent on the sidelines of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing this year. The two sides also agreed to increase the frequency of high-level exchanges between the two countries.
The Uzbek side gave a detailed briefing on the transport Railway Corridor -Uzbekistan-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar. The foreign minister appreciated the briefing and lauded its potential benefits for regional countries. The Uzbek side also indicated its readiness to participate in the CASA-1000 Electrical Transmission Project.
It is pertinent to note here that in April this year, a meeting of special representatives on Afghanistan from Uzbekistan and the People’s Republic of China on Afghanistan was held in Beijing (China). As emphasized, our countries attach great importance to the consolidation of the efforts of the international community to resolve the long-standing conflict. Highly appreciating Uzbekistan’s efforts to implement various projects in Afghanistan, the Chinese side expressed its readiness to join the development of the Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway project.