Pakistan is a land of much splendor. Not only it occupies strategically important tract of land, it is also located at the cross road of many civilizations with a repository of extremely diversified physical contours extending for thousands of miles with potential rivals. Our geo-strategic location also confers a number of economic advantages for the region. Pakistan closeness to oil and gas rich Gulf and Central Asian Republics (CARs) makes it popular with the west. Our close proximity with China, Russia and Afghan Wakhan corridor makes us strategically important. It also offers the land locked Central Asian Republics (CARs) the shortest access to the warm waters through Afghanistan. Today, Central Asian Republics (CARs) are the focus of world's attention primarily because of their enormous energy resources, especially their huge oil and gas reserves, and their strategic location between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan would inadvertently be benefited as she provides the shortest outlet to the land locked states. This paper, therefore, aims at bringing out the geographical importance of Central Asian Republics (CARs) in relation to Pakistan in order to carve out areas of common interests especially economic advantages.
The power potential of a country is the direct product of its geographical and geo-strategic location, human resources and economic strength. The geography is a determinant of its topography, size, shape, communication infra-structure, weather and climate. The geo-political location on the other hand has a direct bearing on its foreign, economic and defense policies.
Pakistan is bounded on the north by the Himalayas Mountains. The Chinese territories of Sin kiang and Tibet are linked with Kashmir on the north and north-east. The Pakistan-China boundary is 372 miles long. On the west low boundary hills divide Pakistan from Afghanistan and to the south in Baluchistan it has a common border with Iran for 500 miles long. On the East Pakistan is surrounded by the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan and Arabian Sea lies to the south of the state. Pakistan has a long border with India i.e. 800 miles. For the most part there is no natural barrier like rivers or mountains to form the boundary and this raises certain conflicts between the two countries total area of Pakistan is 79, 7097 square miles. As regard to the population according to latest estimates it is about 140 million
The economic importance of the area has added to its geo-strategic significance. The Central Asian republics have connected several regional and international organizations, such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organization, Conference of Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia, Economic Cooperation Organization, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Con1rence on Collective Security, etc., to advance their defenses and economies and to make use of their resources to the maximum. Once intra-regional communication links have been reputable in the area, it will be able to play a more valuable role in strategic terms. It has the potential to become the energy nerve centre of the world. In this context, too, stability and peace in the state will be in the concern of all world powers.
Pakistan can take part in a role in boosting the Central Asian economies by providing cost-effective land routes; in the process, its own economy will gain significantly. It can serve up a strategic bridge, connecting the Central Asian Republics with the Southeast Asian 'tigers' and Japan. At the same time, as the Central Asian countries seek out economic diversification, an exclusive opportunity has emerged for Pakistan to export goods, set up new industries, and thereby play a strategic part in bringing about structural change in the Central Asian economies.
1.2 Influence of Geography
Geography of a country influences the following:
' Climate, produce and resource, mineral and material, agricultural and industrial, human, organizational and institutional, for they provide it with natural habitat and environment.
' History as affected by one's neighbors and foreign relations.
' Foreign policy and strategy for survival of war and peace. One has to coexist peacefully with its neighbors and sometimes live in spite of them being hostile with the help of friends, near or far.
1.3 LITERATURE REVIEW
Fayyaz (1996) analyzed that languages of majority of the population are close to Turkish, as these states were part of Ottoman Empire, with the only exception of Tajikistan where Persian is spoken. Religion plays an insignificant role in the lives of majority of the people due to prolonged communist rule.
Garewal (1996) observed that the re-discovery of Central Asian Republics to the north of Pakistan has created a new geographical imperative for Pakistan, for it offers the landlocked republics, the shortest outlet to the sea. Economic transformation in central Asia is bound to bring about profound changes in trade and communications. There are vast areas of economic activities between Central Asian Republics and Pakistan which they can explore to mutual benefits.
Mahrnood (1996-97) observed that due to its historical, cultural, and religious links, Pakistan welcomed the freedom of Central Asian states. With the lead of historical ties, situation seemed more constructive for Pakistan to encourage economic, scientific, cultural, political, and other links. moreover, Pakistan has acquired unique standing in providing transit trade services to these landlocked states.
Haider (1997) has observed that for Pakistan, access to wheat, cotton, and natural gas and oil frame strategic priorities. Though presently self-sufficient in wheat, Pakistan does at times have to import the grain to meet up its domestic necessities. Wheat, as well as a selection of minerals, can be obtained from Kazakhstan. When its cotton crop is less than expectations, Pakistan can import this commodity from neighboring Central Asia. In 1994-6, the Cotton Export Corporation imported 31,000 tons of cotton from Turkmenistan at favorable rates.
Sarwar (1998) observed that there are bright prospects for Pakistan to obtain economic and trade benefits by promoting trade and political relations with the Central Asian Republics.
Cohen (1999) observes that International trade today is a highly developed and observable fact which requires hard currencies, proper banking systems, appropriate marine and liability insurance covers, liability regimes for transporters, contractors and third parties, suitable information and communication network efficient customs facilities, and qualified manpower. Direct sea routes and well-resourced seaports with ample of cargo-handling tools are also vital requirements for significant international trade.
Hamid (2001) observed that the Central Asian states and the Soviet Union had well-built economic ties, with the former mostly dependent on the latter for their economic constancy, as they used to receive subsidies to the amount of 40 per cent from the former United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) to support their budgets.
Pataudi (2001) is of the vision that the entire world is fully aware of central Asia being a future gold mine There is a lot of foreign investment to find out and utilize oil, gas, uranium, aluminum and gold reserves
Kazi (2001) observed that specified the ongoing disturbances in Afghanistan, substitute corridors have significant position to play in relieving transition problems and allowing Central Asia new opportunities to develop trade in different directions. The Almaty-Karachi road is likely to open up new commercial vistas for regional participants as well as other countries.
Khwaja (2003) has mentioned that Pakistan is situated at the interface of Central Asia and provides these landlocked states with the shortest route to the Arabian Sea. Central Asian Republics are in requiring of economically feasible transit routes. Policy makers in Pakistan are therefore seeking to make the best possible use of this opportunity by establishing strong links with the region.
The study has the following objectives;
1. To highlight Pakistan's situation in a region of great economic importance with a view to proffer viable recommendations to exploit its advantages.
2. To highlight the importance of trade between Pakistan and Central Asian Republics by land routes.
3. To identify various fields of economy where Pakistan can excel.
H1: Pakistan is taking all the advantages of its geographical locality
The study involves trade associations between Pakistan and Central Asian Republics that is Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan through land routes.
1.5.1 Data Collection
The study is based on secondary data. Secondary information has been secured by studying various articles published in local and foreign journals.
1.5.2 Analytical Technique
Descriptive analysis technique has been used for this study.
1.6.1 Pakistan provides gateway to CARs
Pakistan is the gateway to Central Asia and her good relations with the region would not only boost its security but also offer enormous economic opportunities.
1.6.2 Trade and transport corridors and seaports
Pakistan has been trying to create itself more applicable to Central Asia by offering the states numerous proposals for creating trade and transport corridors and access to ports.
1.6.3 Railway network an attractive international trade route
Pakistan's geo-strategic location admittedly makes it difficult for Central Asia to ignore it. For Turkmenistan and southern Uzbekistan, the shortest way to the sea lies through Iran, but for all other states, the shortest route is through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Karachi is the nearest port city for Central Asia and by air Islamabad is closer to Tashkent than it is to Karachi. Dushanbe is only an hour's flight from Islamabad, and by road through. Despite little success so far, Pakistan is trying to get better its connectivity to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) through Afghanistan and China. In this respect, the ADB has offered $2 billion to the Pakistan railway network, which will allow Pakistan to become one of the most striking international trade routes to the central Asian Republics (CARs), Iran and China. Pakistan and Afghanistan have already settled to set a 103-km railway track between Charnan and Kandahar, which would be extended to Turkmenistan and other Central Asian Republics (CARs). The feasibility study of the Quetta-Kandahar railway track has been fulfilled and Pakistan would build the 10-12 km railway track to the Afghan boundary. The track from the Afghan border to Kandahar would be the duty of the Afghan government. The World Bank has decided to provide $1.8 billion to Pakistan.
1.6.4 Construction of roads
The quadrilateral agreement signed by Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan is expected to give a boost to trading activities among member- nations through the Karakoram Highway. Pakistan has also proposed to construct a $90-million road through the Boroghil Pass in the Yarkhun valley to link it with the Central Asian Republics (CARs). Of the 13 passes, which lead to Afghanistan from Chitral district, the Boroghil Pass is the easiest and lowest in altitude. This pass remains closed for a very short period late in winter. 'The road will extend to Wakhan, 13-65 km wide strategic strip in northeast Afghanistan. The area links Afghanistan with Pakistan in the south, Tajikistan in the north and China in the east. The Wakhan-Boroghil route has been preferred against the one passing through the central parts of Afghanistan due to the security situation. This road will connect the 12,484-foot-high Boroghil pass at the northwest of the Yarkhurn valley in Chitral with Sarhad-i-Langar in Wakhan at a distance of about 95 km and move on to Iskashim in Tajikistan leading to the Tajik capital Dushanbe via the Korung-Kalai Chumb and Kulob areas. From the Boroghil Pass, the road will traverse over 300 km long valley and reach Peshawar. The distance from Tajikistan to Peshawar via the Wakhan-Chitral route is estimated to be 700 km. This road will also branch off to the northern areas via the 10,500-foot-high Shandur Pass and merge into the Karakoram Highway. The Pakistan government has already sanctioned a number of road projects to interlink the northern areas and Chitral.
1.6.5 Route to Sea-Port
Pakistan has also offered use of the Gwadar deep-sea port to the CARs.61 this port would serve as a mother port at the strategic location opposite to the Strait of Hormuz and at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The first phase of this project is already over. The completion of the Gwadar Port is milestone for Pakistan in this context. It provides shortest access to the Arabian Sea for large parts of Central Asia. Pakistan would import electricity from Kyrgyzstan and both countries would build roads to improve trade.
According to statistics available on imports and exports between Central Asia and Pakistan, trade ratio is not high; indeed, it is quite low by international principles. Both countries can improve imports and exports through political determination and planning. Trade with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan is, though, increasing gradually.
With the evolving of the recently independent Central Asian States, the business elite group in Pakistan viewed this area as submission of immense economic opportunities. Central Asia was seen not only as a basis of required raw materials but also as a potential export market. Some estimates even recommended that the area had a potential market of $80 billion and if Pakistan secures even 5 per cent of this market, it could earn up to $4 billion a year.
In spite of high hopes, the trade between Pakistan and Central Asia remains limited. During 1992-93 Pakistani exports to the section amounted to $5.6 m and imports were $0.51m.
1.6.7 Energy and Pipeline
Pakistan is also looking at the enormous energy resources of Central Asia. It wants to make Pakistan the energy-transit strip in South Asia and the Asia Pacific region, which will bring huge economic gains for the state. Pakistan's significance for Central Asian countries requirements to be viewed in the framework of the complete pipeline politics in the area. As a transit state, Pakistan provides these states with a passage of their energy resources. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan (TAP) signed an agreement in December 2002 for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan, whose probable cost is $2.5 billion. The ADB is the pilot coordinating partner. Presently as a minimum of ten different proposed routes out of the section are under consideration by the countries and oil companies concerned in the Caspian projects. Certainly, many additional proposals will be considered as more oil from new projects comes on line.
Central Asian Republics (CARs) have immense potential for hydrocarbon energy, Pakistan can serve as a ready made market for these. To resolve the rigorous energy crisis being faced by Pakistan at the moment, we must go all out to put on maximum from Central Asian Republics (CARs). Pakistan should also think about allowing of gas and oil pipeline to India through Pakistan.
1.7 MAIN FINDINGS
Pakistan is a gateway to Central Asian Republics and good relations with them had provided enormous economic opportunities to Pakistan. Central Asian Republics has enjoyed an important position in Pakistan's economy.
Pakistan and Central Asia are central to each other, as only Pakistan can offer the Central Asian Republics with a relatively cheaper and shorter passage for its natural energy resources and its trade to the exterior world through the ports at Karachi, Port Qasim, and Gawadar Pakistan, in response, stands to benefit in many ways, ranging from economic gains to strategic advantages from the area. Pakistan's economic collaboration with the countries of this section had shaped for it an image of a progressive and responsible associate in the Islamic world. That image will maintain its due political responsibility in promoting peace and constancy in the region, by turning Pakistan into a chief energy export route in fully running condition. It has also lifted its international class and helped it solve its domestic economic and social problems. As an export route, Pakistan's importance for the international energy market had caused the world to manifest deeper interest in its stability and security. The provision of transit facility to the Central Asian Republics shall have to wait till peace is restored in the strife torn Afghanistan. It is therefore imperative to speed up efforts for promotion of peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is geographically so located that its coast are the nearest to Central Asia. It is hoped that the linking of the Central Asian Republics to its road and railways, new net work would provide them with the shortest outlet for their international trade. The biggest impediment, however, in this regards is the instability in Afghanistan, which hinders its plan to expand trade. Thus, the provision of transit facility to the Central Asian Republics shall have to wait till peace is restored in the strife torn Afghanistan. It is therefore imperative to speed up efforts for promotion of peace in Afghanistan. It is hoped that with the dawn of 21st Century the region of Central Asia will occupy a key position in world's politics and economy. The region is also reviving traditional civilized ties among the nations of Central Asia and is fast gaining strength. Viewed in this backdrop Pakistan rightly attaches great importance to the consolidation of its ties with the Central Asian Republics, it is keen to have deeper and closer relations with these states, which offer great promise for the future. Pakistan is working to enhance cooperation with Central Asian countries. It is genuinely believed that trade would have the way for Pakistan's dynamic role in the region with which Pakistan can do good business and diversify the markets for its exports.
Strategic and economic alignments taking place in and around Central Asia are likely to shape the future strategic balance of the region. Central Asian leadership is primarily interested in economic cooperation .Today Central Asian Republics are looking towards their neighbors for help in restructuring their economies and political systems, because they are convinced that the socio-economic development of the region will determine the internal and external political orientations. Instability in Central Asian Republics would directly impact Pakistan's national security interest. It is therefore important to establish good relations with these states in all fields. Not withstanding the gigantic nature of task, there is every reason to be optimistic. The time is propitious for the purpose. Pakistan must understand her true place in Central Asian drama and build strong bonds of friendship and offer all possible help and assistance. If that is done we can be rest assured that once peace returns to Afghanistan and the Central Asian configuration crystallizes, Pakistan will get her due share of benefits of Central Asian trade and commerce.
Undoubtedly, Central Asia abounds in natural resources and there is a great opportunity for Pakistan to profit from these landlocked states by providing them transit and port facilities for trade with the outside world. But that does not mean that it will be an easy task, as all the five states still have strong economic and political links with Russia. Russian influence in the region is so pervasive that it is indeed an uphill task for any country to get a foothold in the region. Furthermore, the ongoing instability in Afghanistan has greatly undermined Pakistan's prospects.
For Pakistan's policy-makers, the recommended course is to develop relations individually with each of these states. Pakistan must endeavor to convince the leaders of these states that it provides them the best possible outlet towards the Arabian Sea. At the same time, Pakistan should emphasize the traditional and historical links with the region. Its declared policy should be the cultivation of durable relations with Central Asia on the basis of joint ventures, including the establishing of business and trading houses, banks, insurance groups, and professional services. It is essential that the rail and road infrastructure between Pakistan and Central Asia be developed rapidly for any economic progress to be possible. The region's states are badly in need of foreign investment and there is an opportunity for Pakistan to gain influence in the region by making substantial investment.
It is said that nations have no friends but interests. Like other regional countries and world powers, Pakistan must make concerted efforts to obtain maximum economic benefits from this region. Below are some recommendations, which could serve to further improve Pakistan's economic, political, and social relations with the Central Asian Republics.
' Pakistan can establish bilateral relations with each Central Asian state on individual basis. All of them are following independent foreign policies and want the world to recognize them on the basis of their individuality.
' Pakistan does not have to wait for peace and stability to return to Afghanistan, before providing transit and pipeline routes to the Central
' Pakistan should not favour any particular state in the region.
' Pakistan should not get involved in any conflict, or side with any party involved in the conflict. It should not act as a mediator to solve ethnic conflicts.
' Pakistan's policy should be based on 'friendship with all, enmity with none'.
' The Economic Co-operation Organization (ECO) should be made more effective by ensuring its active involvement in the economic development of Central Asia.
' Initially Pakistan can offer the Central Asian Republics trade routes with minimum transit tariff rates. This cost-effectiveness will strengthen Pakistan's position in any trade-route competition.
' Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics can co-operate with each other to promote their tourist industries. The exchange of tourists will improve people-to-people relations.
' Completion of various plans for the improvement of transport infrastructure is of utmost important so that Pakistan can put itself forward as the best available option for any transit route for Central Asia.
' Expansion and improvement of the existing railway network is essential for better transportation of goods at cheaper rates. Though it will cost more, it should be accorded greater priority, as it will mean a quantum increase in rail traffic and good.
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