Turkmenistan’s role in building new Silk Road
Formation of modern road and transport infrastructure is one of the priority directions of the policy of Turkmenistan, and is aimed at progressive social and economic development and the establishment of broad regional and international cooperation.
Turkmenistan is at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, with convenient geographical location, on the new Silk Road. Rich natural oil and gas reserves and a stable political climate allow our country to implement national transport resources for ensuring the Euro-Asian links.
Turkmenistan was the first among the countries of the region to demonstrate at the end of the last century qualitative newapproaches for the revival of the ancient Silk Road. The striking example is commissioning of an international railway (Tedjen-SerahsMeshed) inMay 1996, which opened for the countries of Central Asia the shortest way to the transport networks of Iran, Turkey, theMiddle East and the Far East.
At present, being a full-bodied member of the international system of cargo traffic, Turkmenistan provides reliable transport and transit connection throughout its territory. Great attention is paid to the development of all types of transport, including automobile, railroad, air and maritime. During the 25 years of independence, new airports, national and transnational railways and autobahns have been built. Grandiose in scale and importance Turkmenbashy Sea Port and bridges connecting Turkmenistan with neighboring countries are under construction; maritime, air fleets and railroad parks are being regularly supplemented with new means.
China’s Silk Road concept is fully compatible with the transport and communications initiatives of Turkmenistan.
At the same time, Turkmenistan is developing international cooperation in the transport sphere and initiating the establishment of interstate transport corridors, becoming an important link of transcontinental routes.
Today, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has developed his own concept of cooperation with the international community in the field of transport and thereby made a worthy contribution to the revival of the Silk Road. The main purpose of the concept of the Turkmen leader is to promote on the world stage, evidence-based and effective from a practical point of view, models of multi-stakeholder partnerships in this area, creating a set of appropriate conditions necessary for the intensification and increase of efficiency of the international transport-transit messages.
In this context, the Silk Road initiative of China envisages a common path for our countries in order to forge closer regional cooperation and transport connectivity. China’s Silk Road concept is fully compatible with the transport and communications initiatives of Turkmenistan. In turn, as a reliable regional transit node, Turkmenistan is ready to strengthen cooperation with China on various levels and to play an active role in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road).
Asignificant role in the implementation of these tasks came into play in December 2014 with the opening of the final link in the transnational railway corridor (Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran), which aims to provide convenient and cost-effective delivery of cargoes from Europe to CentralAsia, SouthAsia and the Middle East. Commissioning of this railway is also relevant given its connection to the East-West transport network, that is, the transcontinental route (ChinaCentralAsia-Caucasus-Europe), which runs through our country and the Caspian Sea.
Today, Turkmenistan is in the global market with its own products and services for the transportation of goods of neighboring countries, including China. In February 2016, the first freight train, carrying 32 containers of commercial products from East China’s Zhejiang province, took 14 days to make the 10,000kilometer journey through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, compared with around 45 days by sea. This cost-effective railway route to stimulate the strengthening of regional cooperation in the field of trade contributes to the realization of the transit potential of Turkmenistan.
An important role in connecting the two countries can be played by an under-construction Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, which will have access to an extensive rail network of China and, through it, to the rapidly developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region.
The construction of a newrailway from the Turkmen town of Atamyrat to the Afghan settlement of Aqina is already complete. The opening ceremony of the railway will be held on Nov 28 this year with the participation of the heads of the three countries in the framework of the upcoming global conference on transport in Ashgabat.
The basis for the UN decision to hold the first ever global conference on sustainable transport in Ashgabat is the constructive initiative of the president of Turkmenistan, which has been recognized and approved by the world community.
The relevance of the First Global Conference for Sustainable Transport System is confirmed by the timing itself and will be a vivid evidence of the demand for creative initiatives of the Turkmen president in the development of international transport cooperation. The author is ambassador of Turkmenistan to China.