Uzbekistan to Establish Rail Connections Between Central and South Asia

Uzbekistan has inspired many global financial institutions with its desire to develop rail ties between Central and South Asia. It has encouraged international institutions such as; the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to show their support in this project.

According to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade (MIFT), in the construction of the rail network between Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul and Peshawar, Pakistan, the World Bank has indicated its willingness to fund the fieldwork and provide technical assistance too.

 

The ministry stated that it will cost approximately US$5 billion for this railway project that links Afghanistan with Pakistan. This will entail the construction of a rail line of 573 km. Meanwhile, its annual transit potential would be approximately 20 million tons of cargo.

Major Advantages of The Uzbekistan Transit Corridor

The new transport corridor will enhance connectivity to the states of South-East Asia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The three main advantages of its construction would be; firstly, the time and cost of transporting goods from South Asia to Europe through Central Asia will be substantially reduced. The second objective of this new Trans-Afghan railway is to significantly increase transit potentials and cargo movement to Central Asia. It will provide links to the three Pakistani seaports of Karachi, Bin Qasim and Gwadar. Thirdly, Initiatives will rekindle the historical position of the region as a link for the shortest route between Europe and Asia.

Russia: A Key Player in This Project

The Russian Railways proposed Uzbekistan in their vision to expand its regional connectivity. Suggesting them to explore greater cooperation in building a transport corridor between Russia and India through Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The company predicted that the initiative could enhance technical cooperation between Central Asian states. Allowing them to gain mutual long-term benefits through increased connectivity.

Consultations between the Russian railroad chief and Uzbek Transport authorities held this week. During these consultations, they have revealed and stressed that the project would cut transport times and costs of goods. Specifically, in routes from East and South Asia to Central Asia and Europe by 30%.

On the 19th of May, Uzbek officials announced, following discussions with Russian Railways Chief Oleg Belozerov in Tashkent, that the design and technical documentation of the Mazar I Sarif / Kabul Peshawar Railway would be carried out by Russian Railways.

 

 

Experts Views on The Project

In Taskent, strategic planners see this as the start of a new regional development paradigm. In which, Afghanistan would provide a linkage for mutually positive interregional cooperation from Central to South Asia. Moreover, they are of the view that it is important to identify and take advantage of these new strategic opportunities. This strategic opportunity can be well cashed out by increasing dialogue between all regional and external players.

For the Central Asian countries, the Trans-Afghan Corridor would offer many advantages. It will provide the shortest route to South Asia’s lucrative markets. It will also diversify traffic flows and reduce export and import costs considerably. The opening of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Peshawar Railway would also provide an effective forum. It will help to achieve inclusive Central and South Asian economic development. Eldor Aripov head of Uzbekistan’s Strategic Studies Institute informed this during an event hosted by Tashkent.

Role of Stability and Peace in Afghanistan

Similarly, it also offers a vital opportunity for peace and stability in Afghanistan, boosting development and creating tens of thousands of new jobs. This project will give an opportunity to utilize the untapped natural resources of Afghanistan.

Officials in Uzbekistan claim the new railway link would contribute significantly to ensure regional security and regional stability. In parallel, they also expect that the creation of thousands of jobs would be helped by the development of road infrastructures and the creation of conditions to grow rich mineral resources on the road.

This would encourage participants in the Afghanistan conflict and outside powers to work towards a negotiated settlement and the early stabilization in the war-torn region. Timely, many will know that trading is much better than fighting. A regional-based consensus would prove much more successful than any political agreement or geopolitical agreement.

Connectivity Between CARs and South Asia

Web of transport corridors among Central Asian Regions (CARs) and South Asia nations is the first step toward fostering inter-state economic activities. Uzbekistan has importance in CARs owing to its strategic location at the centre of CARs.

Connectivity through roads and railway tracks between South Asian states and Central Asian states will buttress economic growth in both regions. Both South Asia and Central Asia are vital for regional connectivity in the Asian Century. Additionally, South Asian state can reach out to markets of Central Asia vis-Ă -vis Central Asia can serve as a springboard for South Asia states to get access to markets of EU. On the other hand, Central Asian states can reach out to the outer world through South Asia soils such as Pakistan. Uzbekistan is also looking toward China to get access to the South China Sea to beef up its trade with ASEAN states.

Lastly, between all these activities, Afghanistan would get a golden chance to rejuvenate its economic cycle; with the help of the Central Asia market and by getting connectivity with the rest of the world through Pakistan’s seaports.

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