On February 6, the Azerbaijan-China Business forum held in Beijing gathered together a number of state officials including Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev, the Chairman of the Export and Investment Promotion Fund of Azerbaijan (AZPROMO), as well as officials from the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Chinese Council of Propaganda of International Trade. The business forum was reportedly devoted to the Trans-Caspian Transit Corridor as part of China-led ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, a corridor of 6,500 km links Asia with Europe and passes through countries including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. A flagship project of the corridor, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway, was inaugurated in October in 2017. The railway connects Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, establishing a freight and passenger link between Europe and China. During the inauguration ceremony President Ilham Aliyev stated that “Baku-Tbilisi-Kars will connect not only countries, but continents as well.” Thus, the BTK project is undoubtedly has enormous importance to the competitiveness of the Trans-Caspian corridor.
This article examines the degree of awareness at the grassroots level in Azerbaijan and Pakistan regarding the growing bilateral strategic cooperation. During the last several years, relations between Baku and Islamabad have expanded rapidly to the level of a strategic partnership encompassing various fields such as military, humanitarian issues, diplomatic, and cultural issues. Building strategic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond has always been a guiding principle of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategy. The common religious background of both countries also plays a significant role in strengthening bilateral ties. Pakistan’s explicit support of Azerbaijan in the international diplomatic arena, in particular in regard to the resolution process of the most complex and dangerous conflict in the South Caucasus – the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is among those significant factors. The article traces the key moments in Azerbaijani – Pakistan relations, and outlines the achievements, prospects, and potential for strengthening economic and security ties. Oxumağa davam et Response to Regional Challenges: Why Strategic Partnership of Azerbaijan and Pakistan is Important?→
Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed a new agreement dedicated to launching the Lapis Lazuli transit corridor during a pentalateral meeting at the seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), held on November 15, in Ashgabat (Azernews, November 15). The finalized document was the product of three years of negotiations among the five governments. The trans-regional corridor will encompass mainly railways and highways, which will connect Herat province (Afghanistan) and Turkmenbashi port (Turkmenistan) via Ashgabat. From Turkmenbashi, goods will be able to travel further by ferry to Baku, where they would be placed on train cars and continue westward to Europe across the South Caucasus via the newly launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railroad (see EDM, October 16, November 17). Oxumağa davam et Lapis Lazuli: A New Transit Corridor to Link Asia and Europe via the South Caucasus→
On September 27, the head of Azerbaijani Railways Company, Javid Gurbanov, along with his Georgian and Turkish counterparts, Mamuka Bakhtadze and Ahmad Arslan, respectively, attended the first test run by a passenger train along a section of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway, from the Georgian capital to Akhalkalaki (in the country’s southwest). After the test train reached the final destination, Gurbanov declared that the BTK railroad is likely ready to begin regular operation (AzVision, September 27). Hence, the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, during a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, in Tbilisi, stated that the official opening ceremony of the BTK will be held on October 30 of this year (Apsny.ge, October 10).
The 826-kilometer-long Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway connects Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (and by extension forms an important link in the trans-continental transport corridor connecting Central Asia and China to Europe). The BTK railroad is being constructed on the basis of a 2007 Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. In its initial stage, the railway will carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. However, by 2023, its peak capacity will grow to 17 million tons of cargo annually (The Asian, October 18, 2016). Beginning in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, trains traveling along the BTK will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in northeastern Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Will the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway Become Uzbekistan’s New Connection to Europe?→
In May 2017, China hosted an international summit in Beijing gathering 28 heads of state from four continents and representatives of various international organizations. The summit was devoted to the Belt and Road Initiative, referring to overland and maritime routes across the Eurasian landmass. One of the most significant moments of the summit was the meeting between China’s and Pakistan’s leaders and the signing of a new agreement (MoU), adding to the US$ 46 billion already pledged for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of rail, road and energy infrastructure. During the event, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, requesting their investment in CPEC.
BACKGROUND: CPEC is the flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative and has been seen as a “game changer” in the regional geopolitical discourse since it was formally unveiled in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan and has a budget of over US$ 46 billion. As part of this initiative, an opening ceremony was held on May 6, 2016 in the city of Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, marking the beginning of construction of a section of highway between Sukkur and the city of Multan, which will be part of a network of highways connecting the cities of Peshawar and Karachi. Oxumağa davam et China – Pakistan Economic Corridor: An Opportunity for Central Asia?→
China’s gradually increasing economic role in Central Asia since the early 2000s is unsurprising considering the region’s geographic proximity to China’s dynamic economy. In this context, Beijing has carefully shaped a military strategy in the region, particularly in neighboring Tajikistan. In September 2016, Beijing offered to finance and build several outposts and other military facilities (in addition to the Gulhan post, which was opened in 2012) to beef up Tajikistan’s defense capabilities along its border with Afghanistan, whereas China’s and Tajikistan’s militaries performed a large counter-terrorism exercise in October 2016. These unexpected actions have raised concerns in Russia over rising Chinese influence in Tajikistan.
Water has always been a major cause of wars and border conflicts in the Central Asian region. For being one of the greatest geographical regions, Central Asia has limited water resources. Modern history of the region has been fueled with various ethnic and territorial clashes. Apparently, the main catalysts behind conflicts have been attempts to take control of rich water resources. The main sources of water in Central Asia are the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, mostly fed by snow- and glacier-melt from the Pamir, Hindu Kush and Tien Shan mountain ranges. The 2,200-kilometer Syr Darya originates in the Tien Shan, flows through Kyrgyzstan as the Naryn River and combines with the Kara Darya to become the Syr Darya.
The water resource crisis is not a new phenomenon in Central Asia. With the eventual fall of the Soviet Union, the resource-sharing system it imposed on the region totally disintegrated. The root of the problem is that the main water resources in Central Asia Oxumağa davam et Will Central Asia Fight Over Water Resources?→