China plans rail link to Pak via PoK

China plans rail link to Pak via PoK

China has reportedly commissioned a “preliminary research study” to build an international rail link connecting its border province of Xinjiang to Pakistan, a contentious project from India’s perspective as it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

China has allocated funds for preliminary research on building an international railway connecting its westernmost city of Kashgar in Xinjiang with Pakistan’s deep-sea Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea, state-run China Daily quoted the director of Xinjiang’s regional development and reform commission, Zhang Chunlin, as saying on Saturday.

“The 1,800-km China-Pakistan railway is planned to also pass through Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad and Karachi,” Zhang said at the two-day International Seminar on the Silk Road Economic Belt being held in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

“Although the cost of constructing the railway is expected to be high due to the hostile environment and complicated geographic conditions, the study of the project has already started,” Zhang said.

Xinjiang itself is in a restive state due to attacks by East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants within the province as well as in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

China and Pakistan have already signed a multi-billion-dollar deal to construct an Economic Corridor through PoK connecting Kashgar with Gwadar by improving the existing Karakoram road link, though analysts in China questioned its feasibility in view of present conditions. India has reportedly conveyed its reservations in this regard to China as it is being constructed through the disputed territory. 

Though the rail project was in the air for some time, the announcement came as China and India are set to mark 60-year celebrations of Panchsheel, the five principles of peaceful coexistence here on Saturday. 

Vice President Hamid Ansari, who is on a five-day visit to China, will take part in the celebrations being held here in which Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar President U Thein Sein would also participate.

Chinese officials say the new rail link which runs through the Pamir Plateau and Karakoram mountains will be one of the hardest to build but forms a vital part in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as China’s plans for the revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route. Pakistan has already handed over the control of the Gwadar port to China.

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