New Line from Central Asia to India: Opportunity or Risk?

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In terms of transportation, the most crucial region connecting Eurasia to the north-south and east-west corridors is Central Asia. It can be regarded as a neighbor of Russia, China, and India due to its geographic location. For this reason, new corridor projects involving the region are being developed and launched. One of the most active lines in Central Asia today is the Middle Corridor between China and Europe. In this context, regional actors are taking initiatives to launch new routes.

Uzbekistan, a key nation on the north-south and east-west routes, is one of the most significant actors in Central Asia in terms of corridors. Uzbekistan, one of the Middle Corridor’s more stable countries, seeks to become the center of the route connecting Russia with India. Uzbekistan is attempting to develop several projects in this context. The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Corridor, for which feasibility studies have just begun, is the first of these. The goal is to eliminate the biggest shortcoming regarding China’s access to the west. In addition, the Tashkent administration aims to implement the Trans-Afghan Corridor with the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway route in reconciliation with Pakistan in order to become the center of Central Asia that reaches the seas.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan stand out as two important countries in the context of corridors in Central Asia, especially in South Asia. As a matter of fact, one of the most discussed issues in the recent period is the construction of a new corridor on the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran (Chabahar)-India (Mumbai) route. For this purpose, the representatives from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan and United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) convened on September 20, 2022.

Numerous topics were covered during the conference, and it was determined to expedite the feasibility studies for the route. The major purpose of the line is to facilitate the uninterrupted flow of the 3.2-billion-dollar trade between Central Asia and India. This figure is expected to rise much more as a result of the corridor. The goal is to have $1 billion worth of trade between India and Uzbekistan as soon as possible.[1]

In spite of the fact that the corridor, which includes the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran (Chabahar)-India (Mumbai) route, offers advantages for connecting Uzbekistan and Central Asia to the seas, it is indeed risky in many ways. First of all, it should be noted that some countries on this corridor are subject to the sanctions of the West. In contrast, the multi-vectored foreign policy of the Central Asian governments aim to forge positive ties with a variety of actors and regions, including Western nations. Therefore, the economic dimension of the sanctions brings the possibility of this corridor initiative to be a dead investment.

On the other hand, the most important issue regarding corridors is ensuring route security. However, some of the nations along the path intended for the aforementioned corridor are experiencing political instability. Although this is thought to be a temporary situation, the terrorist organizations operating in the region make the issue much more complicated. The Baluchistan Liberation Army is the most significant of these, a terrorist group that has gained attention due to its attacks on Chinese investments. It is known that this organization has committed terrorist acts not only in Pakistan, but also in Iran. This, in turn, strengthens the possibility of destabilization of the route and damage to investments.

In addition to all these, Chabahar Port is one of the most controversial ports in the region. Although India invested in and developed the Chabahar Port, the competition on the New Delhi-Beijing route is what led to this decision. Because the Gwadar Port, which is supported by China and belongs to Pakistan, is located directly across from the Chabahar Port. The Central Asian countries’ ambitions to use the Chabahar Port will have an impact on regional dynamics.

At this point, it should be underlined that Central Asian nations, particularly Uzbekistan, wish to travel as little distance as possible to reach the sea and India. However, it may be said that in the medium-long term, this presents more challenges than opportunities and has high security concerns. Therefore, it can be said that initiatives centered on the Middle Corridor are more rational. The increasing interest in Caspian-based cooperation in the recent period shows that the states of the region are aware of this. The vision revealed by Tashkent is extremely important in the development of this consciousness.

The establishment of a route that includes India in accordance with the Middle Corridor, on the other hand, is currently under discussion. The Lapis Lazuli Route, which stops in the Afghan city of Herat, is planned to be extended to India through Pakistan. Combining Lapis Lazuli and the Trans-Afghan Corridor in a center such as Kabul will expand the scope of the Middle Corridor, as well as increase the gains of the Central Asian states. Given the geopolitical and economic importance of the countries that make up the Middle Corridor in Eurasia, the likelihood of its destabilization or unfavorable reception is far lower than that of other possibilities. Moreover, it is crucial for Afghanistan to be involved in regional initiatives because it will contribute to the stability of the country, it will also increase the security of Central Asia.

In conclusion, Central Asia is not only the center of Asia, it is the center of the Eurasian geography. The geopolitical significance of Central Asia is confirmed by the numerous projects that have been completed or are scheduled for completion. At this stage, it can be suggested that medium and long-term benefits of the projects will enhance Central Asia’s geopolitical, geostrategic, and geoeconomic importance, especially Uzbekistan’s. The states of the region would likely to employ the capital in the most effective manner. By developing risk-free initiatives to reach India, the Tashkent government will consolidate its position on the east-west and north-south routes of both Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

[1] “Development of Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-India Transport Corridor Discussed in Tashkent Meeting”, Business Turkmenistan,, (Date of Accession: 26.09.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.