Chinese firm bags deal to link Pak, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan by rail

BEIJING: China is brokering a massive political and business deal that will result in rail links between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan  in Central Asia. A Chinese company has bagged a contract from the Afghan government to carry out feasibility studies for the proposal line.

The proposed 700 kilometers line will run right through the hotly contested Taliban areas while connecting the Aynak copper mines in northern Afghanistan with Kabul and the two neighboring countries.

India has been eager to help Afghanistan build its railway system as part of the reconstruction efforts. But it has apparently been checkmated by China because of its influence as an investor in the local copper mines and Pakistan’s aggressive support for the Chinese firm, sources said.“This northern railway is part of a wider plan to extend the Afghan rail network to connect Afghanistan to ports in Iran and Pakistan,” Wahidullah. Shahrani, Afghanistan’s minister of mines. The rail link was essential for the transportation of iron ore and copper, he said.

The China Metallurgical Group Corporation, which has been involved in the development of Aynak copper mines, has been entrusted the task of carrying out feasibility studies, and work out the construction program.

MCC has estimated that the line will cost $5 billion and take five years to be completed, and half of the time would be spent on the feasibility study. It is obvious that the long two and half years kept aside for feasibility study is actually the waiting period required to ensure that the Taliban areas are peaceful enough to begin construction work.

The agreement with Afghan government specifies that MCC will lay the line under a build own, operate and transfer concession after the local government approves the feasibility study. MCC president Zou Jianhui recently said that the security factor was something his company was watching closely because it would put its investment to grave risks – Timesofindia