New Uzbekistan and Trans-Afghan Corridor

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In the changing geopolitical environment of international politics, the importance of transportation and energy corridors has been increasing day by day. Because at a time when many actors implement ambitious policies in line with their own national interests and therefore threaten peace and stability at the regional-global level, corridors enable cooperation between states and actually open the door to the establishment of peace environments by serving the interests of all countries. In this sense, corridors are not only for states; It also promises a prosperous future to the peoples on the route as it offers economic opportunities.

In this sense, Uzbekistan comes first among the states that contribute constructively to regional-global peace. New Uzbekistan is experiencing the Third Renaissance period with the reforms and development breakthroughs carried out under the leadership of Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev since 2016. During the Third Renaissance, the Tashkent administration also calls for this process to evolve into a regional Renaissance period. Because one of the states that want to create a corridor today is Uzbekistan.

The country in question attaches great importance to projects based in Iran and Pakistan within the scope of the efforts of actors who do not have access to the sea to create a transit corridor or to be on it. In this context, Uzbekistan, which has a high level of economic production compared to the countries in the region, maintains close contact with Afghanistan, which has the infrastructure and financial problems. In particular, the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor (TATC) comes to the fore at the point of Uzbekistan reaching the seas.

The project, which will connect Central Asian countries to the open seas via Afghanistan, is planned to have two sections from Afghanistan to Iran and Pakistan. The part passing through Iran includes access to the Persian Gulf thanks to the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Iran line (Bender Abbas and Chabahar ports). The project known as Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabil-Peshawar Railway Line is to aiming to reach Pakistan’s Gwadar Port; thus purposing to reach the Indian Ocean. In particular, the corridor, which will be realized through Pakistan, aims to bring Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries to the sea in the shortest way. In addition, with these projects, it is desired to increase the transit capacity of Central Asia, to develop the countries of the region economically and to strengthen the integration. In this way, it is foreseen that the project will contribute to regional stability. On the other hand, Central Asian countries are making great efforts to diversify transportation corridors and reduce transportation costs.

Afghanistan; due to its location between South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Middle East, it has a geostrategic position that provides the connection between the mentioned regions. For this reason, it is the country that comes to the fore in all cooperation processes. In addition, another country that provides connection via Afghanistan on the north-south line is Uzbekistan. Thanks to the geographically advantageous position of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, it can be said that they have the opportunity to create and develop a transportation corridor between regions and continents.

The connection to be established between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan also have an energy dimension. It is known that Uzbekistan supported the CASA-1000 Project (Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project), which was launched in May 2016 and planned to be implemented between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the stabilization of the Afghanistan economy. On the other hand, Uzbekistan wants to strengthen the link between Central Asia and South Asia by connecting the Surhan-Puli Humri Power Line, which it supplies electricity to Afghanistan, to the CASA-1000 Project. With these projects, the increasing energy needs of South Asia will be met, while Central Asia in general and Uzbekistan, in particular, will turn into an energy hub.

The biggest drawback in the initiatives planned to be implemented is the unstable situation in Afghanistan. For this reason, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, had a meeting with Mullah Baradar, one of the leaders of the Taliban, in Qatar in April 2021. It is stated that Mullah Baradar remarked that he will approach positively all projects that will give legitimacy to the Taliban in the international arena, and that he supports the project in question in order to establish a good dialogue with neighboring countries and to gain financial income. Moreover, it is known that Pakistan has good relations with the Taliban.

It can be said that Uzbekistan has conveyed its intention to access the sea through Iran and is in search of alternatives to reach Pakistani ports via Afghanistan. In this context, considering Iran’s access to Bander Abbas and Chabahar ports in front of Tashkent and Pakistan’s access to Gwadar Port, it can be said that it would be reasonable to focus on the possibility that is more likely to occur.

Considering the benefits that these projects will provide to Uzbekistan and Central Asia, it can be argued that first of all, an important opportunity will be obtained in terms of reaching the oceans. This will overcome a major barrier to accessing other markets. In addition, thanks to the planned corridor with Pakistan, an active link will be established between Central Asia and South Asia, and interregional trade and interaction will increase.

On the other hand, the most important security problem for both Uzbekistan and Central Asian countries today is instability and violence based in Afghanistan. Because a stable Afghanistan will be the gateway of Central Asia to the world and will no longer be a security problem. With these projects, it is possible to contribute to the economy and stability of Afghanistan within the framework of a win-win understanding. In addition, Uzbekistan and Central Asia can become a logistics and transportation hub for northern countries like Russia that want to reach the south, and for southern countries like Pakistan (or even India) to reach the north.

To express it concretely in this context, the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabil-Peshawar Railway Line project, also known as the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor, which frequently referred to by Tashkent, covers not only it is for Central Asia-South Asia, but also it appears as an option that will extend to Europe via the Caspian-Middle Corridor, with its potential and route advantages, thus making the Asia-Europe connection and integration stronger and more profitable. The project in question will increase the economic-cultural interaction and cooperation of the Asian-European regions by ensuring the economic revival of the region and thus will provide a much more concrete acceleration-contribution to regional-global peace.

As a result, it is seen that Central Asian countries have followed a multi-faceted foreign policy for the last five years. The countries of the region, which can open to the oceans and Europe through Uzbekistan, can strengthen these policies by establishing strong relations. Therefore, although the project in question comes to the fore in the context of North-South, it also has the potential to be articulated with the West with its European dimension. Uzbekistan, which will become a center for the North to reach the South and the South and the North to the West, will contribute to the multidimensional development and stability of Central Asia and its neighbor Afghanistan, which it has determined as a priority in its foreign policy, thanks to the aforementioned corridors. Tashkent, which has turned into a strong actor in the region under favour of its increasing economic capacity, is committed to the peace mission in the context of Central-South Asia, which it declared to the whole world with the international conference held in July 2021, and in this context, will support the resolution of the current-potential crises and instability in the region, especially Afghanistan, thanks to these projects. This will mean the stability of both Central and South Asia and Eurasia. All these developments are undoubtedly the result of the high vision and mission understanding of Mr. President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev, the Architect of the Third Renaissance and the leader of the New Uzbekistan Movement.