CPEC’s Karakoram Highway will also boost connectivity with China, Kazakhstan: Envoy

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan Nauman Bashir Bhatti said that Pakistan and China had agreed to keep the Karakoram Highway, a component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), operational throughout the year which will also boost connectivity with Kazakhstan.

“Karakoram Highway will not only boost Pakistan’s connectivity with China but also with Kazakhstan. We also need to work towards making the QTTA (Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement) more effective,” he said in a media interaction.

He invited Kazakhstan to benefit from the favorable investment opportunities being offered by Pakistan under the framework of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).

“I must highlight that Pakistan has established a SIFC and has opened priority sectors for investments. We have invited Kazakhstan to benefit from the favorable investment opportunities offered under the SIFC framework,” the envoy underlined.

Highlighting Pakistan’s strategic location, the envoy mentioned that his country also provided the shortest route for Kazakhstan’s access to the Arabian Sea.

“Pakistan remains keen to strengthen its connectivity with Kazakhstan in multiple ways and through multiple channels. The two sides are already working towards this end,” Ambassador Bhatti added.

He agreed that the shortest and cheapest route for connectivity and transportation of goods between Pakistan and Kazakhstan was through China and Kyrgyzstan using the Karakoram Highway.

“It is also known as the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement between Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan or the QTTA Route. Goods can be transported through this route on trucks and containers directly from Karachi, Pakistan, to Almaty, Kazakhstan, and back, without the need to change trucks,” Ambassador Bhatti elaborated.

He emphasized that this was the safest, most reliable, and economical route. “However, currently, the route cannot be kept operational due to the closure of the Khunjerab Pass for four months in winter,” he pointed out.

The envoy also discussed the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan route, stating that the full realization of the Intra Afghan Rail Network would significantly boost connectivity between the two countries through a rail network.

Ambassador Bhatti said that trade between Pakistan and Kazakhstan had continued to increase, albeit gradually, but it was still far from its true potential. “It can be significantly increased,” he maintained.

The Ambassador stressed that with an improved political and security situation in Afghanistan and the commencement of operations by Pakistan’s National Logistics Company for the transportation of goods to Kazakhstan via Afghanistan and China, “we witnessed a significant surge in our bilateral trade volume between July and November 2023.”

He informed that a range of issues, including cooperation in various segments of the Trans-Afghan Railway connectivity initiative, have recently been discussed.

“The two sides are currently looking into different aspects of cooperation in the transport sector, and I am hopeful that we are going to forge stronger bilateral ties in this sector,” he opined.

Ambassador Bhatti underscored that Pakistan was producing high-quality surgical instruments and exporting them worldwide, offering Pakistan’s expertise for joint ventures in this field.

Currently, he said Pakistan was exporting various items to Kazakhstan, including rice, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, dates, figs, mangoes, tarpaulins, and citrus fruits, especially oranges.

Ambassdor Bhatti highlighted that imports from Kazakhstan included dried leguminous vegetables such as peas and chickpeas, unwrought zinc sulphur, cotton yarn, and minerals.