The role of international transport communications has been and remains very important for Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia. Remoteness from intensive global transport flows, the relative isolation from southern and eastern neighbors, and the backwardness of a wide range of communications are becoming a large factor limiter for the development of full-scale economic trade and other relations with potential partners.
The competitiveness of the Central Asian countries, economic appeal, and geopolitical prospects of full interaction of states in the region with their neighbors and with the international community in general, in our opinion, will be determined precisely by this aspect.
1. Transport vulnerability increases economic risks in the countries of the region. An optimal solution is needed for creating transport corridors that would include a combination of different types of transport. First of all – the railway transport, road network of highways, sea port terminals in the coastal countries and pipelines.
However, these problems are not only economic. Due to internal contradictions, interstate and political conflicts on region’s borders perimeter, these questions are also becoming important geopolitically. Largely because of this vulnerable situation, landlocked countries are sensitive to the attempts to use transport communications as a geopolitical tool.
2. Given the weak transit-transport complex of Central Asia, the development of new communication line to the south and east, the improvement of the existing lines, and construction of other ways to the north and west, in our opinion, shouldn’t be considered only through a prism of geopolitical struggle. Competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive processes.
3. Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia are involved in projects and agreements aimed at establishing transport corridors that would connect Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, including the network (combination) of road, rail, pipeline, sea and air transport.
Euro-Asian transport and communication corridor (EATCC) is a general term that includes different concepts such as Eurasian highway, Eurasian bridge, etc. Eurasian bridge is a multimodal system of transport communications that consists of all types of transport, including pipelines.
4. Implementation of the “North –South” project about the establishment of the strategic transport corridor that would connect countries of the Persian Gulf, South Asia, the Caspian region and Europe plays an important role in the implementation of the strategy of diversification of transport flows. Kazakhstan part of the specified corridors is represented mainly by railways and roads, as well as by Aktau sea trade port, which provides an outlet to international shipping routes via the Caspian Sea.
New prospects let Iran to be involved in regional trade and economic processes. The opening of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran 900 km railway at the end of 2014 should create an additional artery, which would connect the countries of the region with the Gulf States, the Middle East, South and South-East Asia, and will allow to increase transit cargo and a passenger traffic, reduce freight costs, allow access to ports, particularly Chorbaharu.
5. Despite the continuing and intensified instability in Afghanistan, the country remains the natural gateway to the South Asia. Kazakhstan in the assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan and its development, recognizes the fact that there are prospects for the Kazakhstan business (for example, the grain market and energy resources).
At the same time, even though Kazakhstan has no common borders with Afghanistan, regional security risks and challenges associated with the country, remain relevant for Kazakhstan. The key risks are the challenges of a transnational nature – smuggling of goods and drugs trafficking with such consequences as corruption in state bodies and law enforcement agencies, as well as the strengthening of transnational crime. Information tension is brought the fact that presence of illegal armed groups in the border areas of Afghanistan in the north of the country is often interpreted as a sign of possible invasion of Central Asia by extremist forces. Additionally, the growing concern is the support for ISIS activities by the extremist groups of Afghanistan.
The most acceptable situation for Kazakhstan is the one in which the development of relations with Afghanistan and the region as a whole will be developed through a balanced foreign policy of each of the Central Asian countries in relation to the Afghan issue.
Considering the economic development of Afghanistan through the prism of the formation of the energy industry, it can be concluded that further development of cooperation among the Central Asian countries with the southern neighbor has both benefits and possible conflicts (for example, in case of hydropower development).
In matters of economic cooperation, in our opinion, it is important to strengthen trade and economic incentives to involve Afghanistan and change the understanding of Afghanistan from a “weak link of regional security” to “the connecting link of economic development of the region”, and to develop projects aimed at joint development of Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. In questions of economic cooperation it is important to strengthen, in our opinion, trade and economic incentives for involvement of Afghanistan and transformation of perceiving Afghanistan as a “weak link of regional security” to the idea of “the connecting link of economic development of the region” and project development, providing joint development of Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia. It is important to focus on the understanding of Afghanistan as a partner, not just as a recipient of free aid.
1. In Central Asia solidarity of purpose and tasks, understanding of strengths and vulnerabilities, and joint competitiveness are important in the implementation of the national transport strategy. Contradictions in the relations of the Central Asian countries often originate from the narrowly interpreted national interests and national security. This approach leads to a weakening of the security of each country and region as a whole. The overall understanding of the wide range of questions, which create regional connectivity, is important.
Further development and expansion of mutually beneficial trade and economic relations between the states of Central Asia should be seen primarily through the desire to create an actually working trade free zone, the development of entrepreneurship and investment cooperation, conducting the coherent custom, tax and tariff policy by the Central Asian countries and their neighbors, harmonization of the monetary and currency relations, the implementation of active measures for unification of national legislation with the purpose of the implementation of a free trade regime.
In addition, important factors in the development of mutual trade among the countries of Central Asia are harmonization of macroeconomic policy of these countries and synchronization of economic reforms that will help create conditions the formation of a transparent common market for goods and services.
2. Membership of Central Asian countries in the WTO and the introduction of international standards of passage of goods across borders should significantly affect the development of region’s transport infrastructure. The development and functioning of international transport projects such as TCECA, North-South, ASEM, countries associations – EEU, SCO, etc., are connected mainly due to the successful implementation of transport agreements, capable to intensify trade and economic cooperation.
It is necessary to resume the discussion of creating of an international transport consortium for the purpose of identifying specific measures for the development of rail and road routes, transit capacity of the Central Asian countries, transport engineering. Development of the agreed principles of customs, tax and tariff policy of the region’s countries in the field of transport is becoming more and more significant. In particular, in the customs policy of the Central Asian countries in accordance with the accepted contracts and agreements, of it is reasonable to take specific measures aimed to simplify customs clearance and control at internal borders, to ensure smooth transport of goods among these countries and transit through their territories, to implementation the principle “two borders – one stop”.
Implementation of the idea of functioning transport consortium should contribute to the development of transit capacity of the Central Asian region, expansion of trade and economic relations between the states of the region and also major trading partners (Russia, China, the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia, the Southern Asia, the EU, the Middle East), modernization of transport infrastructure and development of related industries, increase of the level of population employment (especially in the regions with the transport corridors to be established), creation of the common transport space.
Thus, the development of economic cooperation between Central Asian countries and establishment of favorable conditions for free trade will become an important stage in the development of common market of goods and services, the operation of which will contribute to the sustainable development of Central Asian countries, their successful involvement in the global community, economic stability, and region safety.