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BANGALORE, India—The Indian defense minister has expressed deep concern over new momentum behind a Chinese proposal to build a rail link from China to Pakistan.
The planned line would go through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region, part of the Pakistan occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is expected to cover a distance of about 435 miles, traveling through the Karakoram mountain ranges in the Himalayas. The line will give China access to Pakistan. China already has a rail link in Tibet close to the Indian border.
The Indian government has said it will do its best to counter the new railway. “It is definitely a matter of concern,” said Indian Minister of State for Defense M. M. Pallam Raju. “But we are taking our counter measures and we are doing our own preparation.”
Raju did not elaborate on the planned measures, but said that China and Pakistan have made it apparent that they are “working closely together and cooperating closely” on issues of defense and strategy.
The railway is adding pressure to the already tense situation in the area.
In June, China's proposed sale of two nuclear reactors to Pakistan caused tensions in Washington. India also continues to maintain that the states of Jammu and Kashmir belong to India.
In September last year, India also strongly protested a hydroelectric plant that China planned to assist building in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
According to reports, a feasibility study toward drafting a memorandum of understanding for the Karakoram rail line is expected to be signed between Beijing and Islamabad during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s current visit to China. According to reports in the Pakistani media, Ashfaq Khattak, the general manager of Pakistan Railways, has joined Zardari’s delegation.
Reports also said that two international consulting companies have already completed a preliminary feasibility study. The railway track is expected to be 423 miles and would connect all major cities on the Pakistani side all the way down to the Arabian Sea. The plan to build the railway was first unveiled in 2004, but recent meetings seem to indicate that momentum is gathering to push ahead with the project.
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