More than 18,285 tons of commodities were exported from Iran to Pakistan via Zahedan-Quetta Railroad connecting the two countries during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22, 2018), which shows a 52% growth compared with the corresponding period of last year.
According to Zahedan Railways director general Majid Arjouni, the exported goods mainly included cement, tar, sulfur, roses and residue wax, the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development reported. The Iranian Railways used special measures to transport the consignment using its multiple railway system, including small gauge and wide gauge railway track. It is the route which the future Port of Gwadar and Chah Bahar will have to use.
However, it is ignored by the Pakistani rulers and failed to spend a single penny on its development. When we are developing the mega deepwater Port at Gwadar and Pakistan needs a modern rail system for transportation of goods from and to Gwadar to all directions—mainly to Central Asia and Central Asia or Russia and China to south and west Asia.
There was zero response from the Federal Government, mainly from the Ministry of Railways giving more attention to develop railways to other directions where there is no passenger or cargo to transport.
It is strange that the officials and rulers are giving more importance to connect Gwadar with Quetta rather than to Zahedan—the hub of international routes leading to West Asia and Central Asia where Pakistan can earn billions of dollars a year facilitating transportation of cargo seeking charges per ton for trade transition to different countries without any discrimination.
Most of the Central Asian countries, including some parts of Russia and China are landlocked needs an outlet to the sea for international trade. At the moment, Iran is extending transit trade facilities to the landlocked countries in the modest ways earning around six billion dollar a year as fee for per ton. The Iranians planned to build the Chah Bahar Port with the help of India.
The Iranians are planning to earn around 10 billion dollars a year by providing transit trade facilities to all the countries from Chah Bahar Port which is at a distance of mere 72 kilometers.
The reason is that Chah Bahar and Gwadar on shorter route and road travel distance will be reduced by half reducing transportation cost significantly. Now Iranians are building the Chah Bahar-Zahedan Railway, parallel to the Quetta Zahedan Railways.
Pakistan had shown no interest in developing and modernizing the Quetta-Zahedan railways so that it should be used by the twin ports of Mekran Coast. Iran is developing the railway line with massive assistance from India in which many Indian companies are involved to complete the construction work ahead of schedule.
It is pity that the Pakistani economic planners and strategists are planning to first connect Quetta and other cities of Central and Western Parts of Balochistan on other directions where there is no passenger or cargo to transport. Presumably, they are giving less importance to Gwadar Port and its development.
If the development planners and strategists are serious in developing the deep water port and wants to earn billions of dollars, they would have upgraded the Quetta-Zahedan railway and ultimately connected it with the Gwadar Port.
Nokkundi and Zahedan are on international route where huge mineral wealth of Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan are already discovered needing railway system to transport the mineral wealth to plants.
Japan and South Korea are making huge investment in building two separate steel mills, one with the capacity of two million tons and the other 1.5 million tons per year. The huge steel mills will be needy rail transport facilities for transporting raw material and finished goods.
The Chah Bahar free trade and industrial areas on the Mekran Coast had already attracted more than 50 billion investment which is unprecedented in the context of Iran facing economic sanctions to this date.
It will be prudent to suggest revamping and rebuilding the railway facilities on the Quetta-Zahedan section to international standards ensuring a sizable income of at least 10 billion US dollars as transit trade fee a year.