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January 15, 2019

Capitalising the benefits of regional trade

Islamabad

January 15, 2019

Experts believe that there are incomparable exploitable trade and business opportunities within the Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. However, concrete efforts for achieving this end have not yet been seriously taken by any country. This region has a huge reservoir of human and natural resources, which could play miracles to enhance the economies; sprouting bilateral and multilateral relationships among the Central Asian countries and other regional countries. Presently, the charismatic and enthusiastic initiation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by China has secured the regional and global attention. The CPEC project has been phrased as a major socio-economic initiative, expected to transform our region into economic hub. It could dominate the transit trade and supply of energies within and across the regions.

Experts believe that Pakistan would be able to acquire more significant role in enhancing the bilateral relations with Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. The CPEC initiates from the deep sea port city Gwadar, Pakistan, which shall act as the nerve centre for the whole endeavor, and lead all the way to the Chinese historic western city of Kashgar near Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan borders. Experts predict that with the development of CPEC project, the Arabian Sea neighborhood would also prop up with the competing projects, ultimately resulting in the increase of commercial traffic flow, thus raising not only the socio-economic but overall strategic value of this region.

Experts opine that Oman and the UAE are already aggressively competing to become regional economic hubs. The UAE ports could serve both the Middle East and Iran with capital, multinationals presence and better infrastructure. High speed trains, roads linking major cities, economic zones, power plants, dry ports, and water treatment facilities are the few undertakings as a part of the greater vision being adopted by Oman and the UAE. The prospective oil and gas pipelines from Iran to China running adjacent to CPEC are the few ventures being explored. The mineral deposits, cheap labour, rising demand, climatic conditions and proximity to emerging economic superpowers are the ingredients of progress already present locally and in the vicinity of Pakistan. Hence, more serious efforts and practical steps are required to be taken in this direction by the present government to overcome the economic spin of the country.

Experts argue that beside the CPEC project, other economic ventures are also viable and significant with immense opportunities and fortunes. Pakistan and Tajikistan are close neighbors with narrowest route through Afghanistan’s Wakhan district near Khandud village approximately 10 km wide, and the alternative way across China, which already exists and is considered more secure. Experts claim that the trade passage of Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan could pass through the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, Lowari Tunnel bringing affluence to the areas and speedy provision of Pakistani products to Tajikistan. The transportation can be from Gwadar to Dushanbe, Khunjerab to Murghab and Chitral to Dushanbe. Tajikistan has been seeking oil imports from Kuwait via Pakistan along with the facilities to trade in and out other commodities through Karachi and Gwadar sea ports to other parts of the world in the coming years. Tajikistan has already attracted the attention of Pakistani industrialists as evident from the companies registered in Pakistan during the recent years. However, no initiative of economic venture into Afghanistan is possible until there is peace there.

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