CPEC & Central Asia Region | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


CPEC & Central Asia Region

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become the main “hub” of regional “supplies” as well as “connectivity”.

Its world class “infrastructural” development projects have further strengthened the chances of greater socio-economic integration, regional connectivity and food & energy security.

Chairman of the CPEC Authority, Asim Saleem Bajwa briefed that the country has started “reaping” the benefits of projects being carried out under CPEC.

While talking to a private news channel, he said with the start of the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, its benefits have started pouring in with jobs creation for the locals.

The Chairman CPEC Authority said a number of infrastructure projects have already been completed while two important projects on the Western alignment of CPEC, Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan and Basima-Khuzdar Motorways would be completed during the current year.

Most recently, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi while meeting with Foreign Ministers of five countries of Central Asia in Xi’an, Shaanxi province agreed on to “push forward” the high-quality development of Belt and Road Cooperation (BRC), strengthen their joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, promote regional security and stability and uphold multilateralism.

It has actually reaffirmed “strategic” importance, utility and “scope” of the “CPEC” which provides an ideal hub for greater regional connectivity with all the Central Asian countries especially the Republic of Uzbekistan which has been “striving” hard to enhance its bilateral trade & commerce with Pakistan through various “innovative” means of transport systems and “alternative” schemes of arrangements.

Wang highlighted that China and the five Central Asian countries have injected impetus into regional economic recovery and made solid contributions to regional peace and development and terming their cooperation positive, productive and promising with broad prospects.

The State Councillor said that China will promote cooperation with the five Central Asian countries in areas including trade, modern agriculture, industrial modernization, high-technology sectors and localities in order to make this area a pilot zone in the joint building of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB).

It again showcases strategic “orientation” of the CPEC being the flagship project of the BRI.

It provides the “shortest” and “easiest” route to all the Central Asian countries to get connected with Pakistan and the rest of the South Asian Region.

FMs of Central Asian countries assured their countries readiness to promote the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with their own national development strategies, strengthen cooperation with China in various fields including agriculture and fighting the Corona pandemic, and jointly crack down on terrorism and transnational crimes.

Thus it indirectly endorsed the “economic befitting proposition” of the CPEC which is the part and parcel of the BRI.

Uzbekistan’s economic “transformation” through rigorous “structural reforms” initiated by the leadership of Shavkat Mirziyoyev has now enabled his country to “expand” its trade and commerce relationship beyond the immediate neighbourhood.

A series of high officials meetings, interactive sessions, exchange of mutually beneficial proposals, economic incentives, trade promotion pledges and, last but not the least, constant seaports facilitations have now revolutionized the “concept” of regional connectivity between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Now “caravans” of greater regional connectivity have started their successful “infinite voyages” to one of the important countries of ancient “Silk Route”, Uzbekistan.

Most recently, the first shipment under the Convention on International Transport of Goods for traffic-in-transit of goods crossed the border reached Pakistan from Uzbekistan via Afghanistan in 48 hours.

It has actually diminished the concept of double landlocked doctrine and enhanced regional connectivity.

On May 11, 2021 a cargo truck with Uzbek license plate safely crossed the Afghan transit route in two days and reached the Torkham checkpoint near Peshawar.

After the completion of customs clearance, the truck will reach the importer in Faisalabad.

Thus, long awaited dreams of connectivity between Fergana and Faisalabad have now been lit-up.

In this context, the vehicle transports from Uzbekistan processed leather products (wet blue) for Pakistani leather factories.

Hopefully, more Uzbek export goods like coal, mineral fertilisers and textiles have been planned for regular direct delivery to Lahore, Karachi, Taxila and Faisalabad. The Embassy of Uzbekistan in Pakistan under the ambassadorship of H.E.

Aybek A Usmanov together with Pakistani transport company Best Trans Pvt Ltd and Uzbek freight forwarding company Asad Trans for the first time implemented a pilot trans-Afghan logistics project for direct delivery of Uzbek export goods to Pakistan through the territory of Afghanistan.

It is successfully achieved with the help of the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Islamabad and the Ministry of Commerce of Pakistan and the partners of Asad Trans and Best Trans Pvt Ltd.

All main stakeholders have been working since January this year on this project for direct delivery of Uzbek goods to Pakistani cities through Afghanistan according to the “supplier’s warehouse-importer’s warehouse” scheme.

The specified transit transportation of Uzbek goods is the implementation of trans-Afghan transport and logistics project initiated by the President of Uzbekistan.

It reduces the cost of transportation of Uzbek goods, including shipping at Uzbek-Afghan border and subsequently at Afghan-Pakistani border, in accordance with the TIR Carnet Convention dated 1975, members of which are Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Partners of Best Trans Pvt. Ltd and Asad Trans are planning to increase the number of freight vehicles up to 50 units by the end of the year to ensure smooth circulation of goods by Uzbek trucks.

The Chairman of Best Trans Pvt Ltd Ramiz Rabbani termed it a historical event, since before that in the Uzbek-Pakistani economic relations, the delivery of Uzbek export goods directly to Pakistan through the freight transport of Uzbekistan was not implemented.

It hopes that the expected signing between Uzbekistan and Pakistan of intergovernmental agreements on preferential and transit trade will further enhance bilateral trade volumes and will give an impetus for development of interregional freight circulation through the trans-Afghan route.

Being a prominent regional expert of Uzbekistan & CIS I suggest that a “Joint Transport Company (JTC)” comprising interested transport companies of the two countries would be a “game changer”.

Formation of “Reciprocal Trade Houses (RTHs)” would be a “value-addition” for the further strengthening of bilateral trade.

A “Joint Merchandise Shipping Company (JMSC)” may further enhance blue economy or trade through sea especially with Gwadar under the flagship project of the CPEC.

To conclude, formation of “Corridor of Knowledge” may be an “innovative” idea to stimulate bilateral trade in the days to come. Revival of banking and financial integration is the need of the hour.