China should build railways through Pakistan to boost trade with South Asia & Arabian Peninsula: Chinese official

Beijing: China and Pakistan should build a railway network in addition to the proposed USD 46-billion economic corridor to boost trade with South Asia and Arabian Peninsula, a top Chinese official said.

“We should prepare to build a railway between China and Pakistan as soon as possible,” He Sanqiu, head of transport in Kashgar was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency today.

Kashgar, the Chinese city in volatile Xinjiang region, borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which will be connected with the 3,000-kilometre-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar.

The corridor, proposed to pass through the PoK, is objected by India due to the disputed status of the region.

The report said that the construction of roads, railways and pipelines across Pakistan is expected to take around 15 years.

Rail is “the easiest way” to link Kashgar with South Asia, the Arab Peninsula, and even parts of east Africa around the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, He Sanqiu said.

There are plenty of opportunities to increase trade, including industrial parks, agriculture and tourism, he said.

China and Pakistan have plans to increase trade to around USD 20 billion within three years from the current USD 16 billion.

The economic corridor will create new business opportunities for enterprises in many economic sectors, Sun Weidong, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan said.

The corridor is at the centre of the agreements signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in April.

Besides energy, it also involves wide cooperation in fields including agriculture, finance and industrial parks, he said.

“The corridor should prioritise infrastructure including highways, railways, tunnels and optical cables,” She Ruiyuan, head of the Development and Reform Commission of Kashgar said.

“China-Pakistan trade remains small, strangled by poor roads,” said Pan Zhiping, professor at Xinjiang University.

In 2014, trade between Pakistan and Xinjiang was USD 147 million, far less than Xinjiang’s USD 12.2-billion with another neighbour, Kazakhstan, said He Yiming, director of Xinjiang commerce department.