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.