Re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Sar­wat Rauf Email: sar­wa­trana@gmail.com

In con­tem­po­rary world re­gion­al­ism has emerged as the most im­por­tant trend. It de­ter­mines the de­vel­op­ment of re­gions, and or­ga­nized re­gional co­op­er­a­tion can suc­cess­fully re­solve the is­sues of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and re­gional se­cu­rity. Europe and East Asian states are best ex­am­ple of in­te­grated eco­nomic and se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture. The same ef­forts have been made by China, Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asian Re­publics (CARs); sub­se­quently Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) was formed in 2001. Presently, the mem­bers of this or­ga­ni­za­tion are not only in Cen­tral Asia but it is ex­tend­ing to­wards West and South Asia. The ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity leads to align­ment of na­tional in­ter­ests of Cen­tral and South Asian states.

Al­though all CARs are in­ter­de­pen­dent but long term ben­e­fits of re­gion­al­iza­tion merely in Cen­tral Asia is dif­fi­cult to ob­tain as their economies are par­tic­u­lar in pri­mary goods which is not nat­u­rally suited to re­gion­al­iza­tion. Hence, it has been re­al­ized that to at­tain mean­ing­ful progress in eco­nomic field, CARs must have an open ac­cess to world mar­ket. Bor­der­ing coun­tries of Afghanistan, (Turk­menistan, Uzbek­istan and Ta­jik­istan) are al­ready its par­tak­ers in var­i­ous en­ergy projects. There is small en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture con­nect­ing Cen­tral Asian elec­tric power pro­duc­ers and Afghanistan. How­ever, this area of co­op­er­a­tion has in­creased by sign­ing en­ergy re­lated projects and el­e­vat­ing eco­nomic links with Pak­istan and In­dia.

The con­sid­er­able re­sources of CARs and Pak­istan’s geopo­lit­i­cal po­si­tion are con­tribut­ing fac­tors for the uni­fi­ca­tion of South and Cen­tral Asian states. Cen­tral Asian states are full of nat­u­ral re­sources but due to land locked area; these are search­ing for easy ac­cess to world mar­kets through Gwader port. In­deed, Pak­istan has been fac­ing eco­nomic and se­cu­rity chal­lenges but nowa­days read­just­ing its for­eign pol­icy in chang­ing re­gional and in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment. Its geostrate­gic im­por­tance in re­gional sta­bil­ity is widely ac­cepted. How­ever, its de­vel­op­ment is linked to its eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity which has slowed down due to elec­tric­ity short­age. The in­dus­tries can­not flour­ish, and ri­ots of­ten take place in dif­fer­ent cities be­cause of power cuts.

It has been re­al­ized that the in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness of South Asians States to CARs can steer eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and peace not only for Pak­istan but for other states too. In this con­text, some ini­tia­tives have al­ready been taken but the two re­cent agree­ments are the Turk­menistan-Afghanistan-Pak­istan-In­dia (TAPI) gas pipe­line pro­ject, and the Cen­tral Asi­aSouth Asia (CASA-1,000) elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion pro­ject, de­signed to bring elec­tric­ity from Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan to Pak­istan and Afghanistan. It is per­ti­nent to men­tion that only af­ter 4 months of the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony of TAPI in Turk­menistan, ground­break­ing cer­e­mony of CASA 1000 has held in Dushanbe, Ta­jik­istan. Both of these projects could cost about $4 bil­lion and $1bil­lion re­spec­tively. These projects will carry up to 33 bil­lion (bcm) of gas and 1,000 MW of elec­tric­ity to Pak­istan per an­num.

Over­all, both projects would ex­pand the op­tions avail­able to the coun­tries in Cen­tral and South Asia to pro­mote their de­vel­op­ment. In­ter­est­ingly, Afghanistan tends to be a main tran­sit coun­try be­tween Cen­tral Asia and South Asia in these two projects. How­ever, the suc­cess of these schemes is linked to peace and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and peace in Afghanistan has the ut­most de­sire of all stake­hold­ers. It ap­pears that en­ergy se­cu­rity in this re­gion can be ac quired through in­creased eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. Peace se­cu­rity can also be en­sured with the sup­port of out­side donors.

High-level se­cu­rity risks are curb­ing spon­sors to in­vest on re­gional-level en­ergy plans. How­ever, these two projects are en­cour­ag­ing sign of re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity and eco­nomic progress. It is the dire need of time to pro­mote re­gional trade with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on the Cen­tral Asian gas and elec­tric power sup­plies. In­stead of post­pon­ing projects, all part­ners should work for pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for the en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture. This emerg­ing in­te­gra­tion is re­in­forc­ing re­gion’s pros­per­ity and peace in fu­ture. — The writer is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, IR Depart­ment, Na­tional Univer­sity of Mod­ern Lan­guages, Is­lam­abad.

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