Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan have signed a roadmap for a multi-billion-dollar rail project that is expected to boost trade relations between Central and South Asia.

Senior officials from the three countries signed an agreement in Tashkent.

Uzbekistan Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov said stability and peace in Afghanistan is key for economic growth and regional cooperation.

In January, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that seaports in his country offered an opportunity to countries in Central Asia to gain access to the Indian Ocean.

This proposed 573km railway project will link Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent through Afghanistan capital Kabul and Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar.

In January, the three countries signed a request seeking a loan of $4.8bn from world financial institutions for the project.

During the same month, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan inaugurated three energy and connectivity projects.

The projects launched include a fiber optic line for high speed internet, a railway track between the two countries, as well as a power transmission project.

Meanwhile, India has reiterated its commitment to the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project in Iran.

This project will connect Iran’s Chahabar port and its border city Zahedan.

Zahedan is the capital of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, and a border town that can link Afghanistan via rail.

Indian Union  Ministry of External Affairs’ Minister of State V Muraleedharan said: “India and Iran remain engaged on the modalities of implementation of Chabahar-Zahedan railway project, and other development projects in Iran.”

The MoU for this project was signed in 2016. In November 2020, Iran began laying tracks for the project at Chabahar. Track laying work from Zahedan commenced in July 2020.

The length of the railway project is 628km.

India is also involved in building Phase I of the Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar.