Monday, March 07, 2005

An alternate route to Central Asia

In an earlier post, we saw how Pakistan was playing spoilsport in India's access to Central Asia. Currently, Pak allows transit of goods from Afghanistan to India, but not vice versa. Obviously, since Afghanistan is a landlocked country the bulk of the traffic should flow into Afghanistan, rather than out of it. Secondly, the cost of transport also doubles if only one-sided traffic is allowed. However, there just might be a way out in the future.

The Asian Development Bank, rediff reports, is working on a trans-Asian highway to link Kabul and Central Asia to Bangkok. The exact route is not specified, but the report says it would pass through Central Asia. This means that it would pass through China, and may just not pass through Pakistan at all. It appears that the plan is at a very preliminary stage of exploration, and it would be upto India to take it up with the remaining stakeholders and push hard for it. It would be longer than the route through Pakistan, but strategically at least it would be priceless. Further, the very idea that such a route was being planned could force Pak to grant India direct access - at least that way they have some control, not to forget the lucrative transit fees.