As an important actor in South Asia, there are various collaborations and partnerships between Pakistan and the Central Asian countries. Both parties see each other as attractive partners and make various attempts to deepen mutual relations. However, it can be said that the main driving force in relationships is energy.
As it is known; The Russia-Ukraine War and the energy crisis that ensued it carried the position of Central Asia in the international arena to a different point and the energy resources of the countries in the region attracted the attention of many countries. However, the region is not only in the last year; In the past, it was important in terms of energy. This is why there are various projects and cooperation agreements on the Central Asia-South Asia route.
Pakistan is an actor who needs energy and attaches importance to relations and energy partnerships with the countries in the region at this point. It also plays a key role in the regional states’ access to the Asia-Pacific and, therefore, the oceans. Pakistan’s position to become an energy corridor is a critical issue that triggers cooperation. Therefore, the parties have important reasons to strengthen their ties. The agreements and joint activities undertaken over the years also show that all Central Asian states are satisfied with the relations with Pakistan.
In this sense, regional connection projects come to the forefront. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Energy Connection Project (TAP), the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TAPI) and the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000) have been important steps that have brought Islamabad and Central Asian capitals closer and paved the way for new initiatives.
TAP involves the construction of a 500-kilovolt transmission line of about 500 kilometers between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. When the project is completed, up to 4,000 megawatts of energy are expected to be transferred from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. New negotiations on the project are also being held between the parties. In this context, in February 2022, the delegation of Turkmenistan headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev held a comprehensive meeting with the Pakistani delegation headed by Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar. The mutual visits carried out in order to make progress in the project also create the infrastructure for the development of cooperation areas.
Secondly, TAPI aims to deliver Turkmenistan’s natural gas to Pakistan and India. Thus, Pakistan, on the one hand, will be able to supply natural gas; on the other hand, it will be able to benefit from tolls due to the fact that it is a route country.
However, Turkmenistan has the goal of facilitating Pakistan’s access to the world by taking advantage of the ports of Gwadar, Ben Qasim and Karachi. As a matter of fact, Turkmenistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Atadjan Movlamov said in November 2022 that Turkmenistan wants more access by sea because it is a landlocked country. Movlamov also stated that Turkmenistan can help meet Pakistan’s energy needs. Therefore, it can be said that the energy relations on the Ashgabat-Islamabad line will go beyond TAPI and TAP and develop further.
The CASA-1000 is an ambitious renewable energy project that will bring 1,300 megawatts more electricity from Central Asia to electricity markets in South Asia through new energy infrastructure. The project aims to create favorable conditions for sustainable electricity trade between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a country with chronic power outages, this project is of great importance for Pakistan. Due to the fact that it creates a common regional electricity market, it is known that it is a profitable initiative for all parties.
While the energy issue is an important need for Islamabad; It is also one of the strongest export items of the Central Asian states. For example, Kazakhstan and Pakistan agreed to focus on cooperation in the energy sector through the energy agreement they signed on October 5, 2022. The agreement is crucial to meeting Pakistan’s energy demands. However, it can be said that it is not limited to this. Pakistan is a gateway to Kazakhstan’s energy products through Gwadar. Therefore, it is obvious that this agreement will open the door to greater cooperation in the future.
As can be understood, bilateral and regional collaborations as well as international initiatives are effective in the rapprochement processes between Central Asian countries and Pakistan. At this point, the international conference titled ‘’Central Asia South Asia: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities’’ held in Tashkent in 2021 is a good example. Such events give impetus to various partnerships involving energy.
As a result, it can be stated that energy will continue to play a leading role in Pakistan-Central Asia relations. As a matter of fact, the parties have a strong will in this direction. Because it is clear that countries are actors that complement each other in terms of energy. Therefore, it can be argued that energy-centered relations will continue to expand and deepen, which will open the door to a strong regional and interregional cooperation.
 “TAPI, TAP Projects Move Ahead After Fresh Parleys with Turkmenistan”, The News, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/929799-tapi-tap-projects-move-ahead-after-fresh-parleys-with-turkmenistan, (Date of Accession: 16.03.2022).
 “Energy-Rich Turkmenistan Offers Assistance to Pakistan”, Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2385546/energy-rich-turkmenistan-offers-assistance-to-pakistan, (Date of Accession: 16.03.2023).
 “CASA-1000: Increasing Clean Energy Availability and Access in Central and South Asia”, CASA-1000, https://www.casa-1000.org/, (Date of Accession: 16.03.2023).
 “Pakistan, Kazakhstan Agree to Focus on Developing Energy Cooperation”, Radio Pakistan, https://www.radio.gov.pk/05-10-2022/pakistan-kazakhstan-agree-to-focus-on-developing-energy-cooperation, (Date of Accession:16.03.2022).