Ashgabat, 27 December 2017 (nCa) — The mature logic has kicked in and a super-corridor is taking shape in the Greater Central Asia region.
Even though 2017 was a rather gloomy page on the calendar, its tail end promises a good start for 2018.
‘Turkmenistan – Heart of Great Silk Road’ is how the Berdymuhamedov administration looks at 2018, and rightly so.
We are living in the era of connectivity, universal and unconditional connectivity. —– Talking of Greater Central Asia, the OBOR (One Belt, One Road Initiative) of China, the North South (Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran) railway corridor, and the Lapis Lazuli Corridor (Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey) are already a reality.
In February 2018, we will see the start of TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project) in the territory of Afghanistan, the early work on TAP500 (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power transmission network), the fiber optic link among the TAPI countries, and further progress on TAT rail (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway line project).
Two test trains carrying cargo from China to Iran have made successful run, proving that it is the fastest and most economical route. Two cargo trains have reached from China to Europe through Kazakhstan and Russia, giving a solid ground for the calculation of mass movement of cargo between the regions. The rail track has the potential to handle some 12 million tons of cargo annually.
Two cargo trains, one in April and one in December this year, have carried fresh and dry fruit from Pakistan to Iran, for onward transmission to Aktau port in Kazakhstan and subsequent transmission by ferry to the Russian ports in the Caspian. Iran wants to build the annual cargo movement along this route to one million tons.
The Central Asia-Middle East corridor, currently a project of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Oman is attracting more participants such as Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
The Chabahar port of Iran has started with cargo movement from India to Afghanistan through Iran. More countries are planning to join this route for the movement of their cargo in different directions.
The planned railway links between Chaman (Pakistan) and Spin Boldok (Afghanistan) and Torkham (Pakistan) and Jalalabad (Afghanistan) will afford access to the Gawadar port for the Afghan and Central Asian cargo.
Iran and Pakistan have announced to build a road between the Gawadar port of Pakistan and Chabahar port of Iran for collaboration possibilities. Any cargo from Afghanistan and Central Asia can easily be channeled to either Gawadar or Chabahar port depending on the preference and port load.
When we talk of corridors, we don’t talk of rail, road, sea and air connections only – we talks of movement of anything; cargo, people, electricity, hydrocarbon resources, information, ideas, just about anything that can be moved from one place to another. Any hard or soft infrastructure that facilitates such movement is a corridor.
In this era of connectivity and corridors, 2018 is likely to become a pivotal year. To envision this, first we must define Greater Central Asia.
Greater Central Asia is the same physical space that was covered by the ancient Great Silk Road – we are looking at, starting from the peripheries and moving to the middle, China, Russia, Turkey, some parts of Europe, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
Turkmenistan, through its various initiatives, is helping weld the various corridors and connectivity options into an omni-directional corridor, a super corridor, a universal corridor. While every corridor will maintain its own identity and ownership, the net effect would be revolutionary in so many different ways.
On 20 December 2017, the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly adopted the Resolution on “Strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” initiated by Turkmenistan. 74 UN member-countries co-authored the document.
Earlier, on 22 December 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Turkmenistan-sponsored resolution “Towards comprehensive cooperation among all modes of transport for promoting sustainable multimodal transit corridors”. Based on this resolution in November 2016 Ashgabat hosted the first global UN conference on sustainable transport.
The second global conference is planned for next year.
Dialogue and action are in motion together. This is called mature logic.
With planned harmonization of the political will, the Greater Central Asia region can make 2018 the year of revival of the Great Silk Road. /// nCa