Strategic Pulse

Pakistan’s Strategic Corridors and Projects

Written by Khuram Amin

Pakistan – China Economic Corridor [CPEC]

The CPEC has been termed as a strategic initiative which will change the region for good, bringing in the prosperity long overdue. The CPEC initiates from a deep sea port city Gwadar located in 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.
The Arabian Sea neighborhood is propping up competing projects all around which shall see increase in flow of commercial traffic thus raising the strategic substance to new heights. The business multiplier will be the Iranian economy opening up to the world, while Oman and UAE aggressively compete to become regional economic hub. The UAE ports will serve both the Middle East and Iran with capital, multinationals presence, and better infrastructure. Meanwhile, Pakistan shall cater to the landlocked Afghanistan, Central Asia and west part of China.
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. 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.

Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement (TTTA)

Beside CPEC other economic routes 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.
The trade passage of Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan shall 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 evidenced from the companies registered there by them in recent years. In November 2015, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov called for more direct investment from Pakistani investors to exploit and extract natural resources and up to 40 kinds of metals present in his country.
The main hurdle in this transit exchange is Afghanistan uncompromising insistence to include India in the agreement. Pakistan has been hesitant until political settlements are reached between the countries. However, as the agreement is in the final stages, it may not take long for this dream to be realized once signed.

Quadrilateral Agreement on Traffic in Transit [QATT]

Beijing also wants to reach Central Asia through the CPEC. As Afghanistan is not enthusiastic about the venture due to political reasons, China and Pakistan are working on an alternative route – the Quadrilateral Agreement on Traffic in Transit (Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan). The QATT is to promote mercantile traffic in transit amongst the contracting states desiring to strengthen the existing friendly relations even further. Recently Tajikistan’s request for being part of this arrangement is being considered seriously by the states already included in the QATT.
In time, with peace prevailing in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Kazakhstan’s Almaty – Pakistan’s Karachi road/railway web is likely to be extended to other Afghanistan-Pakistan communication networks. This would allow Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to trade through the Arabian Sea to South, Southwest Asia and the Middle East with distances reduced by approximately 1200-1400 kilometers. Diplomats and officials in participating countries value the importance of Almaty-Karachi and related link roads as economically cost-effective, relatively safe and noncontroversial when compared to other sensitive routes. The Almaty-Karachi road is likely to also open up new commercial vistas for other neighborly nations not yet covered in the agreement.
The road and rail lines connecting Almaty, Bishkek, and Kashgar to Islamabad is a viable venture despite long distance. Political problems, infrastructure construction, Karakoram renovation have to be resolved to benefit at the optimum level. A trial trade convoy from Pakistan sent in the past reached Almaty in time and returned thus showing the possibility of the option.

Trilateral Connectivity Networks

Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have the ambition of connectivity through rail, road, air and optic fiber with a possibility of other countries joining at later stage. According to experts, Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul [I-T-I] 6566 km freight train journey will take 14-16 days from Pakistan’s federal capital to the Turkish capital, as compared to 40-45 days from Karachi to a Turkish sea port. According to Mohammad Mirzaei Kahagh, Director of Transport & Communications at the Economic Co-operation Organisation, agreement has been reached to cut the journey time from 15 to 10 days through swift trains, in comparison to 17 days by road. Negotiations are also underway to cut tariffs by 20% to make the cost of goods train as low as sea rates.
Utilizing N-25 National Road Highway and Gül freight train service between Islamabad, Tehran, and Istanbul under the framework of Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO] is quite feasible. The journeys under ECO charter shall minimize and eliminate many red tape hurdles and inspections respectively. Iran and Pakistan have set up an “IT Silk Road” optic fiber network integrating each other and which shall be an international transit route connecting electronically China, Pakistan and Iran to Turkey and Europe.
Turkish companies encouraged by the Pakistani government are executing projects successfully in various parts of the land. Iran is eager for trade from Turkey than to rely on Middle East states geographically opposite to it. Iranian businesses are setting up their offices in turkey for not only imports and exports but to benefit from its growing economy as well.
The success shall depend on operating the whole infrastructure on pure commercial basis. Free trade agreements and better integration among the three countries can stimulate trade and commerce easily tripling the revenue figures earned now. The road-rail nexus shall carry textile, surgical tools, furniture, eatables, machinery and spare parts, chemicals and agricultural tools.

Pakistan – Uzbekistan Transit Trade Agreement

Since 1991, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have signed multiple agreements to institutionalize their relationship and boost bilateral trade. All major sectors have endorsed these contacts and even respective government entities signed a protocol to avoid double taxation. Bilateral trade can increase to $300 million in near future if focused upon and encouraged by bringing in the private sector. Joint ventures between businesses can provide the injection boosting commercial activities.
All transport methods between Pakistan and landlocked Uzbekistan can facilitate the essential communication that can benefit both of them. However, Airlines of both countries should be provided with subsidized governmental backing on urgent basis accompanied by necessary infrastructural support such as refrigerated cold storages for fruits and vegetables trade. Fruit exports to Uzbekistan include all kind of citruses, bananas and kiwis with a huge opening for other merchandise and in return importing minerals to Pakistan.

Pakistan – Iran – Turkmenistan Commerce Cooperation [PITCC]

Pakistan has proposed one trade passageway between the three neighbors Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. It is part of a larger vision of International North–South Transport Corridor where goods can be offloaded in Gwadar and carried to Russia by rail roads present in Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.
The train network can also start from India twisting through Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and ending up in Russia benefitting all along China too. The PITCC shall complement other ECO member states commercially Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan through rail links which shall bring in the import and export revolution envisioned by all the leaders of these countries.

Afghanistan – Pakistan – India – Bangladesh – Myanmar (APIBM) Corridor

Restoring historical Afghanistan-Pakistan-India-Bangladesh-Myanmar (APIBM) Corridor can be the road of shared prosperity for South Asia and creating the required interdependence for keeping peace all aorund. In 1909, freight could move by rail and road seamlessly from Karachi to Dhaka via Delhi.
It could be the new Silk Road with the total distance from Kabul to Yangon of 12 days measuring about 5272 km. The time might be reduced considerably with high speed rail networks. Special road and rail nodes should be established for Nepal, Bhutan and sea nodes for Sri Lanka, and Maldives.
The routes beside goods and services movement shall bring in immense transit revenues, tourists, and industrialization. Special economic zones on borders and the paths all along will be catalyzing the job creation process, economic development, and South Asia free trade agreement enforcement.
By working together on infrastructure and facilitating each other’s traders many regional geopolitical issues shall be resolved over the period of time more amicably. It shall have the positive political, economic, social and technological impact on all the peoples and states. It can be predicted that if this vision is pursued, despite current political issues prevailing among SAARC members this century belongs to South Asia.

Pakistan – India – Nepal Integrated Network

In past, people from northern areas of Pakistan used to travel to Nepal to trade horses and commodities like spices, as well as even few settled down in course of time there. Nepal exports can be tea, Pashmina-products, agro-products and medicinal herbs while importing cotton, textiles, leather garments, cutleries, ceramic products, fruits. Pakistani and Nepali industrialists can setup joint ventures and alliances.
The approximate total distance between two capitals Islamabad, Pakistan and Katmandu, Nepal is 1350 km. India and Pakistan have extensive metaled road and rail structures while landlocked state Nepal has limited accessibility due to its mountainous terrain. There are a few choices of trade links between the two nations. The Wagah entrance between Pakistan and India can contribute to increase Nepal-Pakistan trade.
Transportation of tangible items from one destination to another is the main obstacle that is hampering commerce between the two states. Air route in the short run is the most feasible route due to geopolitical issues between India, Pakistan and Nepal. The National and private air carriers of the both countries have to be facilitated by governments to provide the vital advantages to businessmen of both countries.
The route to Nepal shall give Pakistan access to major Chinese cities of Chengdu, Chongqing and Kunming.

Indus River Trade Corridor

The Indus River with its five major tributaries is one of longest rivers in Asia and flows through many countries. It originates from the Tibetan Plateau running through Jammu and Kashmir, entering Gilgit-Baltistan and then flowing southerly along the entire length of Punjab and draining into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi. If this river is developed it can provide the alternative and fast track transport for goods and passengers beside controlling floods, providing water for agriculture and producing cheap and clean energy. The transport expenses can be reduced to half, as specialists point out that one litre of fuel is able to ship one ton of consignment up to 180 km over waterways as compared to only 25 km and 75 km by road and rail respectively. These benefits also carry along the low enhancement and maintenance cost of these waterways as compared to construction of highways and other means of communication. The local communities can be involved and jetties constructed after few kilometers.
The World Bank has supported Pakistan through financing projects of Indus basin for improved governance of water resources. Pakistan water resources are dropping to 1,000 cubic meters per capita, the water scarcity bench mark. Although major effort is required, if the three countries China, India and Pakistan are determined, all obstacles can be overcome and go a long way in bringing riches to the areas and beyond, the river snakes through.

CASA – 1000

Central Asia and South Asia acronymically known as CASA-1000 is an ambitious project of regional energy cooperation among Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with a potential to reach from 1000 MW to 4,000MW electricity transmission alleviating power woes for the South Asian countries involved.
CASA-1000 has approval of the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, USA, UK, and Australian Governments and other donor communities. The project will be completed through a set of agreements and a framework related to development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of the High voltage AC and DC systems.
Afghanistan shall receive 300MW of the electricity transmitted along with the transit fee plus returns on capital investments estimated to be $60 million annually. Pakistan a severely energy deficient country with a huge growing population requires new sources of energies which are inexpensive and environment friendly. By working more closely together, the countries of the region can build the mutual trust needed to address other contentious issues, such as trans-boundary water-sharing, in a more constructive manner.”
CASA-1000 shall evolve into other trade and energy cooperation arrangements such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan [TUTAP] linking their power grids together ensuring consistent supply of electricity.
Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan and India [TAPI] Pipeline

The TAPI pipeline is a major interlinking project for energy-starved otherwise adversaries Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The channel would supply gas from the world’s second largest reservoir of natural gas all the way to New Delhi. Termed as the “Peace Pipeline” it shall enhance regional cooperation while altering the pattern of Central Asian connectivity. TAPI is geopolitically sensitive for Pakistan with the capacity to improve its geostrategic significance in the region. It shall solidify Pakistan’s relations with the landlocked Central Asian countries.
The TAPI pipeline has the support of all major superpowers along with the Afghanistan and India approval despite reservations shown by these countries on other projects with Pakistan. It is also reported that India will pay $200-250 million in transit fees to Pakistan. Meanwhile, the project would help Afghanistan in employment, nation building and bringing Pakistan and India closer on their sometimes opposite and competing viewpoints.
TAPI’s route shall integrate neighbors and provide the enticement to them and other states to work on similar projects together in future. One such instance is of Kazakhstan which has shown keen interest to be part of TAPI pipeline thus extending the lifespan of 30 years gas supply.
A recently visiting Russian delegation proposed building a gas pipeline in a meeting with Pakistani counterparts. They expressed keen interest in laying the pipeline for gas export which would track through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. The Russian pipeline shall run parallel to TAPI supply line and end in Gwadar, Balochistan. While this pitch is due to an alternative market required for Russia as political tension increases with the European Union it can be a boon for Pakistan strategic, tactical and operational goals.

Iran – Pakistan – India Pipeline

Iran is the most ideally geographically located producer of gas along with two highly populated consumer countries Pakistan and India. The scheme as proposed by its decision makers is financially and technically feasible with huge confidence building bonuses for the countries concerned. Unless India finds new energy resources either through exploration or transportation it will be unimaginable to grow at 7-8% annually. As for Pakistan it will not only provide an alternative source of power but can be one of the strategic enticements to convince India not to meddle in its province Baluchistan.
Although land-based pipeline would be four times cheaper than any other option available still Iran and India are planning to circumvent Pakistan by laying undersea 1400 km gas pipeline from one point to another bypassing the exclusive 50000 km economic zone recently awarded by United Nations to Pakistan. This shall compromise the national interest as both countries work closer excluding Pakistan and eliminating revenues of $250 million or more in transit fee for it.
Despite Indian reluctance, Pakistan and Iran should take intense diplomatic efforts to convince India to become part of this ambitious project. Special confidence building measures should be taken along with TAPI’s case of mutual interest and guarantees. At least three inland corridors can be given access to India and Afghanistan by Pakistan for this IPI pipeline. This would enhance the leverage for Pakistan and raise the stakes for all the countries involved in the project to promote peace and not indulge in any military adventurism in future.

PAK – USA Knowledge Corridor

The Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning and USA Embassy in Islamabad has recently agreed to establish PAK-USA Knowledge corridor by setting up sub-campuses of reputable US universities at district levels and prepare 10,000 Pakistani PhDs till year 2025.
In 2015, Strategic Dialogue between USA and Pakistan’s Education, Science and Technology Working Group, launched three University Centers for Advanced Studies in agriculture, energy, and water research. With nineteen existing university partnerships between U.S. and Pakistani institutions, the two governments decided to double joint funding for research grants under the U.S.-Pakistan Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement.
The Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal has also proposed Pakistan-Germany Knowledge Partnership on the same pattern. This can provide the necessary intellect and expertise to support the industrialization process as expected by the aggressive approach taken by the policy makers.

Gharo – Keti Bandar Wind Energy Corridor

The National Renewable Energy Labs (USA) developed the Wind Map of Pakistan identifying the power potential of about 340,000 MW in total. The belts identified in the map are Karachi – Hyderabad areas, ridges in northern Indus valley, western Pakistan wind corridor, mountainous regions, hills and ridges in south-western Pakistan.
The South Pakistan’s Gharo – Keti Bandar Wind corridor having coverage of 9700 sq. km in Sindh has a gross wind power potential of 43000 MW and is the most attractive due to economically competitiveness, close proximity to major load centres and the National Grid. A research has highlighted the potential in the country of energy 3 million MW from solar, 50,000MW and 3000 MW from hydro large and small respectively, 1,800MW from bagasses cogeneration and 500MW from waste. Pakistan also has tremendous possibility for harnessing tidal power, biomass and other renewable energy resources to provide lighting, clean drinking water, improve livelihood and contribute to the agriculture sector of Pakistan.

About the author

Khuram Amin

Mr. Khuram Amin is currently pursuing PhD in the field of Islamic Finance from the University of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is also a lecturer of Business Administration Courses and a trainer of professional programs. His interest includes International Relations, Defence, Economic and Political Studies. He can be reached at

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