A step closer to seamless connectivity between South and Central Asia

Against the backdrop of subdued global economic growth, countries in South Asia and Central Asia are increasingly looking for alternate engines of growth to sustain the dynamism of their economies. Their strategic location, at the crossroad of trade routes between Europe and East Asia, their abundant natural resources and the complementarity of their economies, position them uniquely to benefit from regional economic integration.

However, despite the subregion’s contiguous landmass, regional economic integration and intraregional trade has been limited. It has also been sorely constrained by poorly developed transport links and high transportation and transaction costs that make intraregional trade relatively less competitive.

As part of a United Nations Development Account Project on Strengthening Connectivity in South and Central Asia, a Policy Dialogue was organized on 7 December in Moscow to discuss key challenges related to transport connectivity in the subregions, identify opportunities for seamless connectivity and assess the viability of land-based transport corridors over traditional maritime routes. The event was held during the third session of the Ministerial Conference on Transport in Moscow (http://www.unescap.org/events/policy-dialogue-strengthening-south-asia-c...).

The Dialogue brought together Senior Transport Officials from South and Central Asia to discuss the status of connectivity between the two subregions and identify potential challenges and opportunities. The concept of developing a master plan with Trunk Transport Corridor and Feeder Route Network model on Trans-Asian Railway and Asian Highway network was presented. Common agreement emerged that the ITI-DKD (Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad-Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka) route, along with the INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor) route would add trade volumes to the existing routes, although the transit and transport facilitation issues in South Asian countries remain a major challenge.

The event brought together Ministers of transport, senior officials and other representatives from nine member States and international organizations from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russian Federation and Turkey. Implemented by ESCAP and ECE, the corresponding Project seeks to identify integrated multimodal transport corridors that can enhance transport connectivity within and between countries in the subregions. It places particular emphasis on connectivity of the landlocked countries with subregional and regional transport and trade networks.