These countries would have otherwise sought port access at China and Russia’s east and Russia’s west coast as well as Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Gwadar is a mere 1750 kilometers from Central Asia and represents great potential for these resource-rich countries to find access to a global market. Heavily exploited by Russian companies such as Gazprom who buy gas at almost one-third the market price from these Central Asian countries, they are desperate for some respite and CPEC is just what the doctor ordered. It could serve as a strategic opportunity for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to transport their goods and market them more competitively to regional and global markets. For Pakistan, there is an opportunity to access the rich resources of Central Asia via Afghanistan to bridge its dwindling energy shortfall, as well as transport goods to Central Asia. Hefty Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructure has made all this possible.

Country Total Oil Production (Thousand Barrels per Day) Crude Oil Production (Thousand Barrels per Day) Natural Gas Production (Billion Cubic Feet) Coal Product
Kazakhstan 1658.27 1572.90 416.26 3.407
Kyrgyzstan 0.00 1.00 0.31 1.285
Tajikistan 0.21 0.2 0.62 0.22
Turkmenistan 259.41 228.48 249.36 0.00
Uzbekistan 101.75 70.00 221.52 2492.36
Afghanistan 1.95 1 4.94 1499
Total 2019.64 1872.58 888.07 2497.27

Table showing distribution of natural resources in central Asian States
Source: US Energy Information Administration (2015)

Central Asian leaders have already shown an overwhelmingly positive response to the emergence of CPEC with many of them recognizing the massive latent prospects in the Corridor. Kyrgyzstan has entered a Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) with Pakistan, China, and Kazakhstan to formalize this cooperation. The Central Asian countries will transit their goods through Gwadar with  Pakistan earning a transit fee and seeing business being generated for the service industry along the CPEC routes. Furthermore, 2015 saw Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and then PM Sharif put pen to paper on a string of deals approving three separate highway projects connecting both countries via the land route.  Energy cooperation is also a facet of this relationship with the $1.16 billion CASA 1000 project for hydel export to Pakistan as evidence of this fruitful communion. In his most recent meeting with PM Sharif Turkmen President Berdimuhamadov also displayed effusive optimism regarding CPEC.  Similar optimism and eagerness to join and benefit from CPEC has been shown by Uzbek and Kazakh leaders.

CONCLUSION

However all these benefits can only reaped with a successful resolution of regional security issues, chief amongst them being the Afghan problem. With Afghanistan providing the shortest land route between these countries and Pakistan, it is imperative that this stumbling block in a more meaningful relationship between Pakistan and her Central Asian partners must be dealt with effectively. Unwavering determination has been shown by the Pakistani military to deal with any security issues regarding CPEC and recent negotiations between Kabul and Islamabad also seem to be progressing gingerly. For the sakes of all those involved, one hopes that the security situation improves.