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Monday, July 15, 2024

Op-ed: CPEC can play important role to further Russian interest in Eurasian connectivity

According to Andrew Korybko, an American analyst, the Armenian-Azerbaijanian conflict presents a unique opportunity for Russian pan-Eurasian connectivity interests

‘One World’  reports that Andrew Korybko an American analyst has written about how an Azerbaijani victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh region would benefit Russia. Russian interests in expanding North-South connectivity across Eurasia between the Arctic and Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Oceans had been expressed in  President Putin’s general proposal to this end from his October 2019 Valdai Club appearance.

Putin talked about creating “one more prospective route, the Arctic-Siberia-Asia. The idea is to connect ports along the Northern Sea Route with ports of the Pacific and Indian oceans via roads in East Siberia and central Eurasia.”

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One way, the dream of this connectivity, the author says could be achieved is the expansion of the existing CPEC initiative by China. He terms this as the “N-CPEC+,” the northern expansion of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor into Afghanistan, Central Asia, and eventually Russia itself.

Russia’s NSTC can be revived through Turkey and China

Another way to achieve the same goal would be to expand CPEC into the west, by connecting Iran, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Russia. The author terming this as the W-PEC+.

Russia’s improved connectivity with CPEC-related projects could “restore balance to its balancing act” says Korybko and is more relevant than ever.

The NSTC with Turkish and Chinese assistance can be revived, by pioneering a trade corridor running parallel to most of the NSTC for accessing CPEC’s terminal port of Gwadar.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia via ship, rail, and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali, etc.

Azerbaijan and Turkey both have interests in expanding connectivity with their fellow Pakistani ally through Iran, which aligns with China’s own W-CPEC+ interests of a South Eurasian Silk Road for complementing its Middle Corridor through Central Asia, the Caspian, and the Caucasus.

Connectivity will strengthen regional stability 

These connectivity projects would also add a continental significance to China’s reportedly planned massive investments in Iran, which understandably serves Iran’s domestic and regional interests as well.

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These projects would strategically, politically, as well as economically serve each stakeholder. Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, turkey, and Azerbaijan would all benefit from the stability and security such connectivity is likely to provide.

One of the most important steps that should be taken in the direction of actualizing this pan-Eurasian connectivity is for Russia to revive its NSTC through joint Chinese and Turkish investments in Iran for the purpose of completing the author’s W-CPEC+ proposal. This would most immediately enable Russia to reach the Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean per President Putin’s general vision of a North-South trade corridor as articulated at the Valdai Club last October but would also entail innumerable tangential strategic benefits for every stakeholder involved.

Andrew Korybko, is an American political analyst