China and Pakistan reached an agreement to enhance cooperation within Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. They finalized a significant, long-awaited deal to undertake a multi-billion-dollar railway project in the South Asian nation.
The Chinese Premier, Li Qiang, and his Pakistani counterpart, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, engaged in bilateral discussions during the Beijing-hosted Belt and Road Forum. They later observed the signing of numerous memorandums of understanding and agreements related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, known as CPEC.
“The two leaders discussed bilateral collaboration in the context of the CPEC and prospects of further deepening economic linkages,” said a post-meeting Pakistani statement.
CPEC, a cornerstone initiative within the BRI, anticipates injecting over $65 billion in Chinese investments into Pakistan’s infrastructure, encompassing road, rail, energy, and other sectors. This infusion aims to enhance regional land and sea trade routes.
Among the documents signed on Wednesday, one pertained to the Mainline-1 (ML-1) railway project. This ambitious initiative is engineered to link Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar with the southern port city of Karachi, spanning over 2,600 kilometers of tracks, at a cost of $7 billion.
This joint effort between Islamabad and Beijing is slated for completion in 16 years. The project aims to elevate the line’s capacity from 34 to 134 trains per day in both directions, enabling them to travel at speeds of up to 165 kilometres per hour, doubling the current operating speed.
In his address at the international gathering of the Belt and Road Forum earlier on Wednesday, Kakar emphasised that over the past decade, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been instrumental in creating significant economic prospects for Pakistan.
“The prime minister announced that we have successfully executed more than 50 projects totaling $25 billion within the framework of CPEC. Furthermore, Pakistan has effectively launched the Gwadar deep seaport, equipped with cutting-edge infrastructure to handle cargo ships and enhance transshipment capabilities to benefit regional countries, particularly landlocked states,” Kakar elaborated.
Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Islamabad-based, nongovernmental Pakistan-China Institute, says the ML-1 is the biggest single project under the CPEC and is central to it.
“This project establishes a vital link between Xinjiang and the Gwadar port, opening up Xinjiang’s access to the warm waters and enabling connections to Middle Eastern and European markets,” Sayed explained. “The implementation of ML-1 will play a pivotal role and act as a catalyst in the upcoming stages of CPEC projects. Its execution is expected to stimulate Pakistan’s domestic industries, including sectors like steel, cement, and other local manufacturing,” he emphasised.