Kazakhstan in the System of Eurasian Transport Corridors
Kubat Rakhimov, Head of the Comprehensive Transport Solutions Centre TransEurasia (Moscow),
Alexander Sobyanin, Director of the Strategic Planning Service under the Border for Cooperation of Russia,
Alexander Malyshev, representative of the Belarus railway in Russia
In the present trend towards globalisation the transport policies of many countries depend on the economic potential and development level of neighbouring states, as well as on basic ‘geostrategic’ interests of leading regional and global states.
In this connection, advantages Kazakhstan can gain due to its geopolitical position are influencing the development strategy of the country’s transport sector.
In this article the authors discuss the possibilities for external development of the Kazakhstani transport system in northern, southern and south-eastern directions. Although these three routes have gained their international organizational forms as Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), North-South International Transportation Corridor (Kazakhstan and Belarus became members in 2003) and the Shanghai Organisation of Co-operation (SOC) the Kazakhstani transport sector is not being used to the full.
Currently, the so-called second, eighth, fifth and ninth (and a branch of the first) transport corridors of Organization for Railway Cooperation (ORC) are running through Kazakhstan. Eurasian international routes go in three directions and are classified in Kazakhstan as Northern, Central and Western corridors, respectively. The Central Asian corridor should also be mentioned because it is important for international relations between the states located in this region.
Characteristics in the table show high potential of cargo traffic through Kazakhstan. Below we propose our view of the hierarchy of the most important, and thus, the most promising transport and interborder corridors.
Central Asian corridor (the Uzbek and Tajik transit is treated as separate subprograms because of economic features of these two states). This route is the most promising one because: (1) Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (after Russia) have the second and third largest cargo volumes (respectively) transported through Kazakhstan; (2) this corridor lets Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan use the existing transportation system; (3) western states are concerned about increasing their economic presence in Central Asia.
The Kazakhstani and Russian interborder sections. As Russian regions are quite independent in regard to implementing foreign economic policy there is the necessity to develop various programs aimed at increasing cargo traffic with promising areas such as Southern, Volga, Ural, and Siberian federal districts. It should be noted that cargo traffic to and from Russia is formed by the Russia-to-Kazakhstan as well as the Kazakhstan-to-Russia shipments, along with the Russian and Central Asian transit through Kazakhstan.
The Northern corridor of TransAsian Railway (TAR). Kazakhstan has been paying much attention to the development of this route. But the Urumchi and Beijing presentations of the National Company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) did not achieve success equal to the efforts spent. In the very near future, transit over Northern corridor of TAR will be increased with the help of the Chinese and Russian, and Chinese and European transit. We suppose that for the sake of Northern corridor development the representative office of the KTZ should be moved from Urumchi to the city of Chongqing, the capital of 12 western regions of China, or the third representative office should be opened there.
International North-South corridor. Orientation of the Iranian cargo traffic to Olya and other Russian seaports proves that it is necessary to establish a uniform Kazakhstani and Russian view on the multimodal North-South corridor that would include Indian and Iranian transit through Aktau seaport. However, according to the authors’ view, active political participation of Kazakhstan in the North-South ITC will not be reinforced by high economic feedback in the near future, and this is why we placed this route after the Russian and Chinese ones.
Slow growth of cargo traffic along Northern corridor of TAR is one of the examples confirming that development of the new strategy is highly relevant.
While implementing plans for increasing cargo traffic through this route, especially when speaking of transportation of goods through the frontier station Druzhba-Alashankou, we should include the factors influencing the economic development of China in recent years. For example the practical implementation of the development program of Western Chinese regions (Xibu da Kaifa) was launched in 2001. This will result in a significant increase in demand for building materials, engineering and power equipment, and means of transportation produced in Russia and EU countries. This is an opportunity for the transportation departments of Kazakhstan, and first of all for the KTZ, to participate in the projects on industrialization of Western Chinese regions.
In this connection, it is noticeable that the Xibu da Kaifa program provides reorganisation of the West Chinese transportation system from seaport to railway transit. China’s investment in railway building will reach USD 42.3bn in 2001-2005. It is planned to lay 7,000 km of railways to increase the aggregate length of the national railway network to 75,000 km (with 36% of its total lengths running through western regions) of which 14,000 km will be high-speed railways. There have already been laid 1,350 km of new rail tracks, and 800 km of the second rail track. The total length of commissioned new lines made up 1,210 km, the length of the second line reached 1,460 km, and electrified lines made up 2,620 km in 2002.
Western China includes 12 provinces and regions, with 6 of them situated in the northwest and 6 in the southwest of the country. The largest of them with regard to gross production are Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Chongqing, Qinghai, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Practical retargeting of the Western China cargo traffic to railway transit under the ‘Great Development of the West’ program is possible only in association with heads of these provinces and autonomous regions, and representatives of the central governmental authorities in Chungqing (official capital of Western China). This city is the centre of all the exhibitions important for the industrial development of the region. The representative offices of the Chinese ministries that implement the Xibu da Kaifa program are there, as are the headquarters of transnational corporations which do business with Xinjiang, Tibet and other western regions.
In this connection we propose the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of Kazakhstan to raise the level of contacts between Kazakhstan and China by opening its representative office in Chungqing. This will provide an opportunity to co-ordinate activities of the Kazakhstani transport organisations in China and participate in the projects of the strategic program on development of the Western China.
It is fair to say that even in Russia, where the Chinese route is being actively developed, no work on participation in any projects implemented in Western China is being done. Thus, there are representative offices of many Russian transportation companies in Urumchi, Beijing, Harbin, Shanghai, Canton and Xianggang (Hong Kong), but there are few of them in Lanzhou and Chungqing.
That is why we can speak of opening a permanent representative office of EurAsEC in Chungqing. This would allow lobbying of the projects with participation of not only Kazakhstani, but also Russian and Byelorussian railway companies.
Eastern line of the North-South ITC
At present, it is an open question that Russia and Kazakhstan must choose a perspective strategy for the development of the transportation branch of the economy. Russia and its EurAsEC and SOC allies need new transportation methods that would include the System of Eurasian Transportation Corridors (SETC). Its objective is to provide security and reliability of the work of continental transportation routes and development of the territorial production complexes (TPC). Current approaches to this problem do not allow transportation networks of Russia and Kazakhstan to deal either with the first, or the second objective.
After the collapse of the USSR, its transportation complex has been actively entering the European transportation system. Nine major corridors with thirteen branches were designated during the Second European Transport Conference (Crete, Greece) in 1994. A co-operation scheme of European and Eurasian transportation institutes was approved at the First Eurasian Transport Conference (St. Petersburg), and a number of Russian corridors were included in the 9th and 2nd Crete corridors.
At the same time, it is clear that the Crete system and UNO ESCAP corridors created for the convenience of other countries do not let Russia and its allies develop their potentials through consolidation of Eurasian transport and infrastructure.
Orientation on the Crete international transportation corridors led to a positive perception of some basic approaches to the development of European transport. This continent’s leading means of transport is maritime transport; railways just provide communication between regions (a method of the “strong European regions”) and interaction between the seaports of different basins. The creation of new facilities or regional development is not Europe’s task for transport. This makes reduction of governmental control of transportation sector possible. At the same time efficient solution of national economy problems in Siberia and Central Asia is possible only if there are railway communications, which presupposes maximum governmental involvement in these processes.
This is why today’s EurAsEC countries should develop an independent transport system with emphasis on establishing the transport complex around the so-called Central-Eurasian region.
The Central-Eurasian transport circuit may include Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, the Central Asian states, Iran, Iraq, north-western regions of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern states of India, Russia’s Northern Caucasus regions, the Volga, Ural and Southern Siberia regions. Being focused in the Caspian region this circuit will have three points through which it may access international trade. They are: continental at Pamir, South Asian at port Bender-Abbas (Iran), and Novorossiysk at the Black Sea.
Khazar-Hanseatic Trading Track (KHTT) is seen as the strategic a continuation of the modern corridor from the Baltic to Indian North-South seaports and plays a special role. It connects the Northern Sea Route (Petrozavodsk), Transsib (Kazan) and Turksib (Syzran) and has access to the Mediterranean transport circuit (through the Volga-Don Canal) laying over the most unstable areas of the number of countries situated in the developing Central Eurasian geo-economic region. Junction points include St. Petersburg, 2K (Kaliningrad-Klaipeda), Petrozavodsk, Kazan, Syzran, Aksaray-Astrakhan, Aktau, Makhachkala, Baku, Turkmenbashi (Ashgabad), Enzeli, Amirabad, Tehran, Bender-Abbas, and Mumbai (or the neighbouring port Jawaharlar Nehru).
KHTT may have an overland branch from Astrakhan-Aksaraiskaya through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic called the Pamir passage. This structure with two Central Asian routes (over Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan), and with access to the Karakorum highway and further to the Karachi seaport could become a common economic project. The States involved would be Russia, EurAsEC countries, China, Pakistan, and India within the framework of a Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA). In this case KHTT would have additional junction points in Kadagach, Arys-Tashkent, Lugovaya, Bishkek, Osh, Khorog, Tash-Kurgan, Islamabad, and Karachi.
It should be noted that the main KHTT route from 2K and St. Petersburg to Jawaharlar Nehru and Mumbai is practically developing under the North-South ITC, but the development of the Pamir passage demands lengthy negotiations under CICA. Construction of modern bridges over the frontier Pyandzh started in 2002 may become the starting point for making the Pamir pact of CICA countries on guaranteeing security and economic co-operation.
However, the current situation may speed up the signing of the Pamir pact and the beginning of active shipment over the Karachi motorway. For example, Russia has supported measures taken by the Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev on establishing CICA. Russian President Vladimir Putin had a long talk with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf on 5 February 2003. During their conversation they touched upon the question of economic co-operation between the countries located in the Pamir region.
Currently Kazakhstan has a direct railway route to Persian Gulf seaports through the Uzbek Jizzak and Bukhara lines, Turkmen Chardzhou and Mary, and Iranian Serahs. It is planned to build a railway branch along the Caspian coast in association with Turkmenistan. The Kazakhstani-Turkmenian railway branch can pass over the Yearliyevo-Turkmenbashi route (over Karabogazgol gulf), or the Uzen-Gazandjik route (east of Karabogazgol). The second route is a bit longer, however, due to geological conditions it will be easier to build. In addition, this route is considered more promising in comparison with construction of a large transportation structure over the Karabogazgol gulf, which may cause unpredictable ecological consequences.
In future it is expected to lock the Eastern line of the meridian corridor in the main logistics centre of the North-South ITC (transportation junction being Aksaraiskaya-Astrakhan). In this case cargo transported by train would be trans-shipped in the Buzan seaport situated 12 km away from the railway station Aksaraiskaya. The Buzan-Aksaraiskaya link would promote mixed shipping to and from Central Asia directed to the Volga-Don and the Volga-Baltic Canals. The route Aksaraiskaya-Buzan seaport-Volga-Don Canal-Sea of Azov gives opportunities for oil transportation in rail vessels and smaller tankers.
According to the authors view, the ITC Eastern line may have the following objectives:
• servicing of exports and imports from Ural and Siberia region by the Aktau seaport (especially when speaking of a developed Nikel-Tau (Orenburg region)-Aktau seaport route);
• developing the ferry service between Aktau seaport and the other ports of Caspian states;
• creating a free trade zone in Aktau seaport to service cargo following the North-South ITC and Central Asia-Europe routes;
• using the existing railway routes over Meshkhed for eliminating the possible disproportions connected with seasonal features and freight density of the route;
• building of an Uzen-Gazandjik railway branch along the Caspian coast;
• creating a free trade zone in the Aksaraiskaya-Astrakhan region to work with a number of Kazakhstani and transit routes;
• establishing the Kazakhstani-Russian tanker fleet;
• establishing the Kazakhstani-Russian trucking company;
• reconstructing and modernising the Eastern Caspian trunk road.
Kazakhstan actively operates even at the other end of the corridor, the Baltic Sea. Baltiysk (Kalinigrad region) and several other seaports prepare a special offering for Aktau seaport and Kazakhstani companies (which had tried to acquire marine facilities in Riga, Murmansk and St. Petersburg but failed). Due to rapid increase in grain exports from Kazakhstan in winter 2002-2003 the transit of grain through Ukrainian, Russian and Baltic ports has also increased. Kazakhstan concluded an agreement on strategic co-operation with Klaipeda port (Klaipeda State Seaport introduced a modern grain terminal in late 2002).
Acceleration of integration
Early 2003 was marked by the growth of integration all over Eurasia. President Putin held the State Council of Russia devoted to the issues of frontier co-operation on 22 January. A corresponding program gained the state status. The priorities of Russia in the integration process were specified at the First EurAsEC Economic Forum that took place on 19-20 February in Moscow. The most important issue was transportation co-operation, because it creates infrastructure necessary for co-operation in other industries.
The transport ministries of Byelorussia and Kazakhstan negotiated an agreement on co-operation in 2003. In addition, simultaneous entry of these countries in the North-South ITC confirms that the integration tandem of Russia and Kazakhstan accepted the key state on the European direction of EurAsEC, the Republic of Belarus.
Byelorussia understands that development of Eurasian corridors is impossible without establishment of Asian routes. At the same time, European direction in Kazakhstan has long ago become the priority. As Kazakhstani President Nazarbayev and EurAsEC Secretary General Grigory Rapota pointed out during the First EurAsEC Economic Forum, Eurasian integration is more than just co-operation; it is mutual responsibility and common economic policy in regard to the third countries’ markets. Baltic, Central Asian, Chinese, Iranian and Indian lines of Kazakhstan’s transportation sector development would perfectly comply with the general development of the transportation system of EurAsEC countries.
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