China, Pakistan to expedite Main Line 1 railway, but no deal yet

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif agreed this week during talks in Beijing to push for the “earliest implementation” of the multi-billion-dollar Main Line 1 railway (ML-1).

The line would upgrade a 1,900km colonial-era line from Karachi on the Arabian Sea to Peshawar in the north.

A joint communiqué described the proposed railway as “a project of key significance”.

But news site Pakistan Today described the outcome as a “setback” because the two sides had not reached an agreement on a loan from China.

It reported that before the Pakistani delegation went to Beijing, planning minister Ahsan Iqbal met Chinese ambassador Mr Nong Rong to urge him to push to get the project approved.

It also noted that during the administration of former prime minister Imran Khan, Pakistan and China failed twice to negotiate a loan, with figures of between $6bn and $8bn on the table.

In Beijing, the two leaders also agreed to advance the Karachi Circular Railway, which the communiqué described as “an urgent requirement for Pakistan’s biggest city”.

China also agreed to give Pakistan a grant of $69m (RMB500m) to help it recover from recent floods.

Further reading

Iran and Afghanistan meet to plan completion of vital rail link to Herat

Construction of China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway “to start next year”

Uzbekistan starts building $5bn trans-Afghan railway: report

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