Another Name for Power Struggle and Choice in Asia-Pacific: Corridors

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The post-Cold War world has entered a period that can be considered quite critical. Proxy wars, nuclear weapons in the indirect construction of the new international system by hybrid wars, and the discourse of the 3rd World War began to be used much more frequently. In this power struggle, which shows itself in the context of unipolarity and multipolarity, Asian geopolitics has gained more significance with the current and potential crisis areas that have started to demonstrate themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

In this power struggle, which also shows its effect on the rimland in the context of land and maritime geopolitics, “corridors” appear as the main routes leading to the heartland in the multidimensional search for security.

It is seen that one of the main targets of the Russia-Ukraine War was the People’s Republic of China and in this context, the corridors. At this point, as much as the uncertainty about the future of the Belt Road Project, the density on the current routes and the destabilizing activities targeting these routes, security problems and increasing concerns push Afro-Asia, the “World Island”, especially the Asian region, to new searches.

To put it more concretely, for example, China provides the needs of the Russian Federation, which is disconnected from the European Union through the northern corridor which it uses at full capacity.

Faced with a heavy embargo after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia supplies almost everything it needs through China. For this reason, all railway capacity to Russia is filled by China. Therefore, it is thought that China will not want to invest more in the Northern Corridor and will not expand the corridor, since it has already reached full capacity after the Russia-Ukraine war.

Thanks to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), oil shipments from the Middle East to China decreased from 12,070 kilometers to 2414 kilometers and with the completion of the Corridor, the trade integration between China, South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe will increase significantly. In this respect, Gwadar Port stands out as the “heart of the initiative”.

Although Beijing uses the southern corridor to transport Chinese goods to the EU by sea, it can be stated that this causes a loss of time and high costs.

The Middle Corridor project, on the other hand, seems to be a logical and advantageous project compared to other alternatives.

In addition to this, while Central Asian countries have to develop trade with China due to their economic dependence, it is observed that China prefers resource diversity for its supply and/or demand security. In this context, in order not to be dependent on a single route, Beijing is expected to see the Middle Corridor, which is currently unknown from which countries it will consist of, as route diversification, like energy policy.

It is thought that diversifying routes in the Middle Corridor for China, although it is attractive in terms of creating alternatives, brings some difficulties. In this context, regional cooperation to be carried out under one of the regional states on the subject will enable to overcome these difficulties.

In addition, the fact that the realization of the TAPI (Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India) project financed by the Japan-backed Asian Development Bank will provide an advantage to India, which Beijing sees as its rival, brings to mind the fact that it may be effective in China’s orientation to the Middle Corridor.

In addition, as partly stated above, it is noteworthy that the USA openly targets China in the new geopolitics formed by the RF-Ukraine war. The USA is planning to hold the East China and South China Seas of China with AUKUS and to control the Indian Ocean part, which is the other energy supply route of China, in other words, the line stretching from the west of the Strait of Malacca to the Arabian Sea.

On the other hand, it has been noticed for a long time that China is trying to break this effect with the interventions, aid and agreements it has signed with the countries located on the said sea line and rimland (especially Iran, Pakistan, Myanmar, which has a border to China and ocean exit). On the other hand, counter-movements against these attempts of China have started with the new uncertain period in Afghanistan and the political design processes of the countries in the region close to China, especially Sri Lanka. It is predicted that this will lead to a new geopolitical construction process in the region, including other countries in the upcoming period.

In this equation, it is evaluated that there will be a security problem in the East Sea part of China and this road may be closed to all kinds of traffic after a while, as a result of this, Pakistan and India will come to the fore, and therefore geopolitical competition in the Indian Ocean may escalate in the very near future.

The developments in Sri Lanka constitute a significant starting point for this process, and it is anticipated that other countries will follow along with the Myanmar problem, which has a tendency to deepen and expand in the region. At this point, countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal come to mind first. Therefore, for China, the land-sea corridors that it is trying to establish in the “Indian Ocean-Basra-Red Sea Line” are faced with great risk and uncertainty. Therefore, it is predicted that cheaper and safer land transportation will gain importance.

For this reason, it seems that the implementation of unfinished and uninitiated projects in the region as soon as possible has started to gain importance not only in terms of the region but also in terms of China. In this context, the implementation of the Trans-Afghan Project in the construction of a larger-scale corridor that can extend to the Caucasus and Europe via the Caspian, which is a candidate to connect Central Asia and South Asia in the main, is now an inevitable need.

In this regard, relations with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan become prominent for Pakistan. Turkmenistan, which has started to open up to the world, has the capacity to provide all necessary support. An example of this is already seen in TAPI.

The other two key countries are undoubtedly Pakistan and India. Cooperation between the two countries will not only extend Afghanistan, but will also facilitate the Central Asian states to establish and develop bilateral relations with these countries, and will also strengthen their maneuver power against other regional-global powers.

At this point, for the welfare and future of Pakistan, it is inevitable that at least a part of the aforementioned corridor should be put into operation immediately, that it should be implemented as a joint consortium with the countries of the region and that the necessary financial support should be obtained from the global institutions and countries that provide financial support. This will be a comforting move for the countries of the region against the “financial monopoly” claims that China is trying to build on the countries of the region.

Considering the global economic depression, the increasing population, the climate crisis, the narrowing of food supply routes and the USA’s plans for China, at least one of the regional states should take the initiative.

In conclusion, the issue of “corridors”, whose importance-priority increased with the Russia-Ukraine War, emerges as the name of the new power struggle in the next period. The attacks targeting the Belt Road Project (as seen in the CPEC example), the uncertainty in the future of Russia, which is the backbone of the Northern Corridor, and even some unexpected consequences in the context of Russia-China relations raise question marks in the future of this route, which has already exceeded its capacity. Naturally, this seems to have pushed the Belt and Road Project carried out by Beijing into great uncertainty for the states of the region, especially China. Likewise, new instability and security problems in the line extending from the East China Sea to the Basra-Red Sea seem to hinder the search for corridors that encompass these regions. This issue underlies the silent concern and some searches against the Project or China. Therefore, it seems that it has become a necessity for the states of the region to put forward a stronger will to turn the current/possible conjuncture in their favor and take the initiative. Centering South Asia-Central Asia-Caucasia as the safest route, the Middle Corridor emerges as a solution corridor that is the most open to cooperation between the states of the region and in this context, searches come to the fore with concrete project proposals. This corridor, which is also in the interest of China under the current conditions, will form an important backbone in the process of building the Asia-centered new world order. It is undoubtedly of great importance that the countries of the region strengthen their will for cooperation in this context. The historical background of the region and its constructive values-heritage give it this chance. The region has no more time to lose.

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
1969 Dörtyol-Hatay doğumlu olan Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi (BÜ) Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden 1993 yılında mezun oldu. BÜ’de 1995 yılında Yüksek Lisans çalışmasını tamamlayan Erol, aynı yıl BÜ’de doktora programına kabul edildi. Ankara Üniversitesi’nde doktorasını 2005’de tamamlayan Erol, 2009 yılında “Uluslararası İlişkiler” alanında doçent ve 2014 yılında da Profesörlük unvanlarını aldı. 2000-2006 tarihleri arasında Avrasya Stratejik Araştırmaları Merkezi (ASAM)’nde görev yapan Erol, 2009 yılında Stratejik Düşünce Enstitüsü’nün (SDE) Kurucu Başkanlığı ve Yönetim Kurulu Üyeliği görevlerinde bulundu. Uluslararası Strateji ve Güvenlik Araştırmaları Merkezi (USGAM)’nin de kurucu başkanı olan Prof. Erol, Yeni Türkiye Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi (YTSAM) Uluslararası İlişkiler Enstitüsü Başkanlığını da yürütmektedir. Prof. Erol, Gazi Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi (GAZİSAM) Müdürlüğü görevinde de bulunmuştur. 2007 yılında Türk Dünyası Yazarlar ve Sanatçılar Vakfı “Türk Dünyası Hizmet Ödülü”nü alan Prof. Erol, akademik anlamdaki çalışmaları ve medyadaki faaliyetlerinden dolayı çok sayıda ödüle layık görülmüştür. Bunlardan bazıları şu şekilde sıralanabilir: 2013 yılında Çağdaş Demokratlar Birliği Derneği tarafından “Yılın Yazılı Medya Ödülü”, 2015 yılında “APM 10. Yıl Hizmet Ödülü”, Türkiye Yazarlar Birliği tarafından “2015 Yılın Basın-Fikir Ödülü”, Anadolu Köy Korucuları ve Şehit Aileleri “2016 Gönül Elçileri Medya Onur Ödülü”, Yörük Türkmen Federasyonları tarafından verilen “2016 Türkiye Onur Ödülü”. Prof. Erol’un 15 kitap çalışması bulunmaktadır. Bunlardan bazılarının isimleri şu şekildedir: “Hayalden Gerçeğe Türk Birleşik Devletleri”, “Türkiye-AB İlişkileri: Dış Politika ve İç Yapı Sorunsalları”, “Avrasya’da Yeni Büyük Oyun”, “Türk Dış Politikasında Strateji Arayışları”, “Türk Dış Politikasında Güvenlik Arayışları”, “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti-Rusya Federasyonu İlişkileri”, “Sıcak Barışın Soğuk Örgütü Yeni NATO”, “Dış Politika Analizinde Teorik Yaklaşımlar: Türk Dış Politikası Örneği”, “Krizler ve Kriz Yönetimi: Aktörler ve Örnek Olaylar”, “Kazakistan” ve “Uluslararası İlişkilerde Güncel Sorunlar”. 2002’den bu yana TRT Türkiye’nin sesi ve TRT Radyo 1 (Ankara Radyosu) “Avrasya Gündemi”, “Stratejik Bakış”, “Küresel Bakış”, “Analiz”, “Dosya”, “Haber Masası”, “Gündemin Öteki Yüzü” gibi radyo programlarını gerçekleştirmiş olan Prof. Erol, TRT INT televizyonunda 2004-2007 yılları arasında Arayış, 2007-2010 yılları arasında Kanal A televizyonunda “Sınır Ötesi” ve 2020-2021’de de BBN TÜRK televizyonunda “Dış Politika Gündemi” programlarını yaptı. 2012-2018 yılları arasında Millî Gazete’de “Arayış” adlı köşesinde dış politika yazıları yayımlanan Prof. Erol’un ulusal-uluslararası medyada çok sayıda televizyon, radyo, gazete, haber siteleri ve dergide uzmanlığı dahilinde görüşlerine de başvurulmaktadır. 2006-2018 yılları arasında Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde ve Ankara Üniversitesi Latin Amerika Araştırmaları Merkezi’nde (LAMER) de dersler veren Prof. Erol, 2018’den bu yana Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde öğretim üyesi olarak akademik kariyerini devam ettirmektedir. Çok sayıda dergi ve gazetede yazıları-değerlendirmeleri yayımlanan; Avrasya Dosyası, Stratejik Analiz, Stratejik Düşünce, Gazi Bölgesel Çalışmalar, The Journal of SSPS, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, gibi akademik dergilerde editörlük faaliyetlerinde bulunan Prof. Erol, Bölgesel Araştırmalar, Uluslararası Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları, Gazi Akademik Bakış, Ege Üniversitesi Türk Dünyası İncelemeleri, Demokrasi Platformu dergilerinin editörlüklerini hali hazırda yürütmektedir. 2016’dan bu yana Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi (ANKASAM) Kurucu Başkanı olarak çalışmalarını devam ettiren Prof. Erol, evli ve üç çocuk babasıdır.