Uzbekistan has acquired its first transit cargo through Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. For Uzbekistan, this implies prioritizing a southern-looking coverage, because it seeks to claim its personal identification within the area and set up viable different buying and selling companions.
A non-public dealer in India exported 140 tons of cargo, principally Indian sugar, to Uzbekistan through Pakistan and Afghanistan, as VOA just lately reported. The route concerned sea and land freight transport with the cargo first arriving on the Karachi port in Pakistan from India. The cargo was then trucked throughout Pakistan and into Afghanistan, crossing the Torkham border and heading to Kabul. The vans then traveled from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif and on to Termez in Uzbekistan.
Modest although this cargo transit was, it might sign a significant shift in commerce routes for the landlocked Central Asian nation, lowering its vital dependency on Iran and Russia for his or her commerce routes, and enabling Uzbekistan to forge a extra unbiased commerce coverage.
Russia has traditionally been a key buying and selling associate and the first route for Uzbek items to succeed in world markets. Bilateral commerce between the nations presently stands at $7.5 billion. Trendy business ties developed within the nineteenth century when roads, railroads, and pipelines had been constructed and solely directed northward towards the Russian heartland. Particularly, Russian seaports are a significant delivery route for fuel and petroleum merchandise and industrial steel.
Uzbekistan is double landlocked so has at all times remained on the periphery of main world markets. Nevertheless, since Shavkat Mirzoyeyev got here to energy in 2016 Uzbekistan has been shifting purposefully to deal with these points and diversify its commerce routes. In doing so, it has appeared south and the path to Pakistan has been given probably the most consideration.
The place to begin for Uzbekistan’s technique has been accessing Pakistani seaports. A Preferential Commerce Settlement (PTA) was signed in March 2022 between Pakistan and Uzbekistan masking a complete of 34 items. The deal includes two key modifications: within the first occasion the PTA goals to decrease duties on these merchandise, which presently vary from 20 p.c to one hundred pc, and second, non-tariff obstacles are to be minimized by mutual recognition of requirements and easing procedural necessities for items coated below the PTA.
This follows from the Pakistan-Uzbekistan Transit Commerce Settlement (AUPTT) that the 2 nations signed in July 2021. Beneath the settlement, Uzbek vans are allowed to hold items through Afghanistan on to Pakistani seaports at Karachi, Gwadar, and Bin Qasim fairly than having to re-load them onto Pakistani vans on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and vice versa. The settlement additionally stipulated a leisure of migration guidelines and mutual recognition of driving licenses.
Key to those agreements is Afghanistan since it’s located in between Uzbekistan and Pakistan. The three states have a historical past of cooperation on main infrastructural and commerce initiatives. A well-known instance is the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar (Trans-Afghan) railway challenge, a trilateral challenge that goals to attach Uzbekistan with Pakistani seaports of Karachi, Bin Qasim, and Gwadar through Afghanistan. With these alternatives come safety issues. Critical sensible challenges stay as rising inner discord between the assorted Taliban factions compounded with worldwide isolation might make administering the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route tough.
Pakistani seaports additionally look like a most well-liked choice to Iranian ones already in use. Uzbekistan is presently an lively consumer of the Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas, accessed via Turkmenistan, for instance. However although the port does have the mandatory infrastructure, sanctions on Iran have considerably restricted Uzbekistan’s potential to succeed in new markets through Iran.
Implementing commerce routes to Pakistani seaports hides Uzbekistan’s far larger issues. The latest occasions in Kazakhstan and Ukraine have created a way of unease. Moscow’s erratic worldwide agenda has sophisticated Tashkent’s capacity to maneuver amongst its many interlocutors.
Current occasions in Ukraine have particularly catalyzed Mirziyoyev’s southern coverage. The sanctions on Russia have almost paralyzed its commerce choices and in addition severely impacted the Uzbek financial system. The biggest delivery consignment corporations have suspended exports through the Black Sea to the Commonwealth of Unbiased States (CIS), which incorporates Russia and Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s place in the midst of Central Asia is a supply of power but additionally vulnerability. For Uzbekistan, the perfect different to Russian commerce routes is to the south. The reason being geographical. Uzbekistan occupies a central place in Central Asia. It has been the crossroads of all routes, each from North to South and from West to East, linking the Eurasian heartland’s core with the Indo-Pacific rimland. But the present Uzbek transport routes had been constructed to serve the wants of the centralized Soviet state, which redirected commerce flows north. Thus it has develop into a decades-long pursuit for Uzbekistan to beat its geographical remoteness and remodel the constructions of its financial system, which have develop into more and more geared towards exporting commodities to its neighbors. A vital a part of that is figuring out and increasing to non-traditional markets, and Pakistan and Afghanistan appear to be the keys to unlocking Uzbekistan’s aspirations within the area.