KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 ― Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said international trade passages including China’s Belt-Road initiative will not reach their full potential if global terrorism and wars are not stopped.
He said although the world claims to be civilised, these “civilised people” still resort to killing others to resolve problems, and that their capacity for destruction is far greater than their capacity for creation.
“It is imperative that the world become less primitive and reject the use of force and massacres in order to benefit from the opening up of new passages for trade and freight that the Belt and Road initiative promises,” Dr Mahathir said at one of the sessions for the Second Belt-Road Forum in Beijing.
Similarly, he recalled the ancient Silk Road, whose passages can be improved with modern technologies, especially with trains which he said are faster than ships.
“Just as the massive trade by ships has spawned the development of huge bulk carriers, the land passage should also respond to the needs of the increased trade between East and West.
“Although trains can now connect China with Eastern Europe but current trains are not designed for the increases in goods and people needing to travel along this passageway,” Dr Mahathir said.
He said since ships can be built bigger, with some tankers almost half a million tonnes, trains should be built bigger to carry more goods, raw materials, and people.
“Have we reached the limit in terms of the size and length of trains? I think not. If the rail gauge is widened, cannot we build bigger trains? Cannot we have longer trains, maybe a kilometre long?” Dr Mahathir said.
He also spoke of the improvement in the speed of trains, and asked if it is possible to build safer fast trains to cope with the increased needs of trade today.
“Trains can shorten the passage between East and West bringing then closer to each other. We have the technology and the money to bring about these improvements.
“As the sea routes and land routes improve, trade and travel will grow and with this wealth of the world will increase for the betterment of everyone,” Dr Mahathir said.
The prime minister joins 37 world leaders and 5,000 representatives from 150 countries for the two-day forum, where 124 countries and 29 international organisations representing US$6 trillion (RM24.9 trillion) in trade volume have already partnered up for the initiative.