Islamabad-Istanbul links: $20 Bln Rail Upgrade Project

ISTANBUL (Turkey): Pakistan and Turkey agreed Monday to undertake a US $ 20 billion project to upgrade a railway link from Islamabad to Istanbul, basically to speedily transport cargo from Pakistan to Turkey and ultimately to Europe.

This was decided in a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul. The meeting continued for one hour as President Abdullah Gul said that three companies of his country were interested in constructing Bhasha-Diamer Dam in Pakistan.

President Zardari is only a four-day visit of Turkey to attend Trilateral Summit as well as Istanbul Summit on Afghan issue besides discussing bilateral matters with Turkish leaders.

The five-year rail project envisages to curtainI travel time between Islamabad and Istanbul, via Tehran, from the current 11 days to ultimately three-four days as a track between the two cities already existed but facilities available required upgradation.

Emphasising that Pakistan and Turkey needed to intensify cooperation in various fields, with focus on economic ties, President Zardari said that Rail link of Pakistan with Turkey, via Tehran, would play a crucial role to achieve these objectives.

Transportation of cargo by Air has become expensive while sea trade is normally slow, President Zardari said. So the cargo rail link could provide a speedier option to expand economic ties between the two countries as well as with Iran.

A comprehensive presentation was given to the Pakistani and Turkish Presidents on the 6,566 kilometres Rail project from Islamabad to Istanbul, via Tehran, with 1,990 kilometres track situated in Pakistan, 2,570 kilometres in Iran and 2,006 kilometres in Turkey.

This rail link will strengthen Pakistan’s economic as well as people to people ties with not only brotherly Muslim countries but also onwards to Europe, remarked President Zardari who floated the Islamabad-Istanbul cargo train idea last year when an experimental train was run on the route on August 14.

He also stressed that the areas around the rail track should also be developed so that benefits of increased trade could be passed on to respective people. Zardari impressed upon business community of Turkey to not only enhance trade relations with Pakistan but also to take advantage of lucrative investment opportunities in his country.

I paid my first foreign visit to Turkey as PPP Co-Chairman after the martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the President said. It reflects the importance the democratic government of Pakistan attaches to relations with Turkey.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that besides constructing Diamar-Bhasha Dam through its private sector, Turkey also planned to open branch of a Turkish bank in Pakistan, probably in Islamabad.

Gul invited Zardari to a state visit of Turkey, which the latter accepted with visit to take place at a mutually convenient date.

An Urdu-Turkish and Turkish-Urdu dictionary, compiled by an Ankara-based Pakistani, Dr. Furqan Hameed, was also presented to the two Heads of State.  ~Pakistan Times

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