Central Asian Strategic Calculus: Policy Options for Pakistan

Roshan Taj HUMAYUN
05 February 2016
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The post-Cold War transformation of global politics with the demise of Soviet Union and fast changing regional geo-political situation following the aftermath of 9/11 have pushed forward Central Asian revitalization. Thus, in turn has created strong imperatives for the Pakistan to fill the strategic vacuum in the region for more engaged role in an extended neighborhood beyond South Asia. The Central Asian Republics (CARs) abounds in reserves like hydro-carbon, mineral deposits, hydroelectric power potential, gold and enormous human resources. To address existing shortages in energy sector countries like Pakistan are in dire need of these resources to accelerate and develop their economies. The land-locked Central Asia is a “Great Gain” but unfortunately, do not have any prospect and access to outer world to develop their economy by utilizing resources.

Owing to intense power play to have an access and get hold on to these resources are taking place between Russia, China, United States and the Western countries in the strategic arena of Central Asia. On the contrary, Pakistan’s emphasis on soft power strikes to enter into productive bilateral cooperation in the political, economic and security areas in the region. Likewise, as a case in point, President Musharraf’s April 2006 articulation at the Pakistan-China Energy Forum of a grand vision of Pakistan serving as a major transport and energy corridor for CARs and western China to the Indian Ocean through the Chinese-built port facility at Gwadar marked a hallmark in the re-establishment of relations between the two states. More recently, in the month of May and June Islamabad made another breakthrough by shifting its foreign policy for more enhanced focus towards Central Asia after the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visits to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to discuss long-standing energy and trade projects.

 

Historically, Pakistan sought to underscore its Muslim identity as the basis for molding the emerging alignments in south and central Asia. From Islamabad’s perspective, the emergence of a belt of independent Muslim states in Central Asia not only allowed Pakistan an exit from being locked into an Indo-centric South Asia but also provided an added measure of security in the event of an armed conflict with India. If prevailing uncertainty in the security realm is properly managed in the region, by joining hands with Pakistan they can surmount their economic crises by rendering support to each other. The importance of Central Asia will go up in the whole region. Similarly, Pakistan actively engaged in Afghanistan for having a stable regime there and resultantly easy access to and from Central Asia. However, indigenous as well as foreign factors such as lack of economic and financial resources, continued instability in Afghanistan and regional geo-politics are stumbling blocks in Pakistan’s access to Central Asia.

 

In this context, the nature of Pakistan’s relations with former Soviet Central Asia has largely been key element of the concept of a “Greater Central Asia Vision” and has attempted to integrate three goals: Firstly, to forge bilateral and regional ties based on a common Islamic identity, Secondly, capitalizing on the opportunity to gain strategic depth against India and lastly, to seek mutually beneficial economic and energy partnerships.

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