Chinese Rail Plan In PoK Worries India7 July 2010
The Economic Times
New Delhi: India has expressed concern over China’s plans to build a rail link through the Karakoram ranges in Pakistan. The trans-Karakoram rail link will go through the Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Indian government reacted with concern to the rail-link plan, but also said that it was taking counter measures. “It is definitely a matter of concern. But we are taking our counter measures and we are doing our own preparation,” minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju said. The rail link will give China access through PoK and comes on the heels of the Tibet rail link, which comes close to the Indian border. Noting the many areas where China and Pakistan are collaborating, Mr Raju said that both China and Pakistan had made it “very apparent” that they were “working closely together and cooperating closely” on defence and strategic issues. The Chinese plans, according to reports, is to build the rail link to Pakistan and reach the Arabian sea through the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pak-occupied Kashmir. The MoU for a feasibility study on building the Karakoram railway line is expected to be signed between Beijing and Islamabad during President Asif Ali Zardari’s current, ongoing visit to China. According to reports in the Pakistani media, Pakistan’s General Manager Railways (operation) Ishfaq Khattak has joined Mr Zardari’s delegation. Reports also said that a pre-feasibility study has already been completed by two international consulting companies. The railway track is expected to be 682 km and would connect all major cities on the Pakistani side. The plan to build the railway has been around since 2004, but there now seems to be some movement on going ahead with the project. Reports said that an international consortium would be set up for the feasibility study once the MoU is signed between the two sides. Indian concerns also centre around the fact that the rail link is envisaged to go through PoK. The Indian position continues to be that PoK is an integral part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. India in the past has expressed concern and lodged strong protests over projects in PoK. Last year, New Delhi had lodged a strong protest over Pakistan’s plans to build the Bunji hydroelectric project, which is also coming up with Chinese assistance. Pakistan and China had signed an MoU for the construction of the dam last year. There seems to be renewed cooperation between China and Pakistan. The plan to build the rail link follows the revelation that China has agreed to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan. India is concerned by this development considering Pakistan’s proliferation record.