Russia and Iran want to lessen the strain of Western sanctions by creating a new economic corridor that would increase bilateral commerce and connect them with South Asia. The 7,200-kilometer International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) connects South Asia with southern Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. It begins in St. Petersburg. The Caspian Sea corridor, which also offers a route through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, has been discussed for a while but has only recently gained significant traction in the wake of the Ukrainian War. Russia views the corridor as a way to replace European commerce that has been hampered by sanctions. By circumventing the Suez Canal, the initiative significantly lowers transportation costs for all parties involved. The project is incomplete, with funding and infrastructure issues delaying the railway line in Iran. Other logistical issues, limited ship capacity along the waterway, and paper-based transport documents. The project is also affected by non-tariff and other barriers, including the lack of harmonized border crossing procedures and freight and vehicle insurance. The project’s effectiveness could also be undermined by sanctions and geopolitical tensions, including political friction between Azerbaijan and Iran. Although the project is still in its early stages, its implementation is fraught with risks and challenges, and it may struggle to deliver its ambitious cargo transit target, especially if the sanctions regimes against Russia and Iran tighten further.
Pakistan could potentially benefit from the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) in a few ways. First, as a neighboring country of Iran, Pakistan could increase its trade with Iran and other countries along the corridor, particularly Russia. This could be especially significant given Pakistan’s current economic challenges and efforts to diversify its trade relationships beyond China and the Gulf countries. Second, Pakistan could also potentially serve as a transit country for goods moving between Iran and other countries in the region. The development of new transport infrastructure and logistics capabilities along the INSTC route could create opportunities for Pakistan to develop its own transport and logistics sector, potentially creating new jobs and economic growth.
Pakistan could potentially benefit from the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) in a few ways. First, as a neighboring country of Iran, Pakistan could increase its trade with Iran and other countries along the corridor, particularly Russia.
However, there are also several challenges and potential obstacles to Pakistan’s participation in INSTC. These include issues related to security, particularly given the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, as well as challenges related to infrastructure and bureaucratic hurdles that may make it difficult to effectively move goods and services along the corridor. Additionally, given Pakistan’s longstanding political and economic ties with China, there may be concerns about how participation in INSTC could impact Pakistan’s relationship with Beijing.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) are both large-scale infrastructure projects designed to boost regional connectivity and economic cooperation. However, there are significant differences between the two projects. CPEC is a 3,000 km network of roads, railways, and pipelines connecting China’s western Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. The project aims to improve Pakistan’s infrastructure, stimulate economic growth, and provide China with an alternative route for its energy imports from the Middle East.
Alternatively, INSTC is a 7,200 km multimodal transport corridor that connects Russia, Iran, and India, passing through Azerbaijan and Central Asia. The project aims to provide a shorter and cheaper trade route between Europe and Asia by bypassing the traditional route and reducing transportation costs.
CPEC is a bilateral project between China and Pakistan, while INSTC involves multiple countries and is more complex in terms of logistics and coordination. Pakistan could potentially benefit from INSTC by improving its trade ties with Russia, Iran, and India, which are important regional powers.
While both projects seek to promote regional connectivity and economic development, CPEC has a greater focus on infrastructure development, while INSTC is more geared towards trade facilitation. Additionally, CPEC is a bilateral project between China and Pakistan, while INSTC involves multiple countries and is more complex in terms of logistics and coordination. Pakistan could potentially benefit from INSTC by improving its trade ties with Russia, Iran, and India, which are important regional powers. However, CPEC remains a crucial project for Pakistan’s economic development, and the country is likely to continue prioritizing it over other regional connectivity initiatives.
In theory, Pakistan’s CPEC can integrate with INSTC. The CPEC is a massive infrastructure development project that aims to connect the Chinese city of Kashgar to Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar via a network of highways, railways, and pipelines. The INSTC, on the other hand, is a multi-modal transportation route that connects Iran, and Russia via road, rail, and sea. Both projects are aimed at improving regional connectivity and boosting trade and economic ties. There is potential for integration between the two projects, as the CPEC and the INSTC can complement each other by providing a more comprehensive transportation network in the region. For example, once completed, the CPEC could provide a shorter route for Chinese goods to reach Gwadar port and then be shipped to Iran and Russia via the INSTC. Similarly, the INSTC could provide a more direct and cost-effective route for Pakistani goods to reach the markets of Russia and other Central Asian countries.
Both projects are aimed at improving regional connectivity and boosting trade and economic ties. There is potential for integration between the two projects, as the CPEC and the INSTC can complement each other by providing a more comprehensive transportation network in the region
However, integrating the two projects would require significant coordination and cooperation between the governments and stakeholders involved. There are also geopolitical and strategic considerations that would need to be addressed. So, while it is theoretically possible to integrate the CPEC with INSTC, it remains to be seen its implementation in practice.
CPEC is primarily a bilateral economic cooperation initiative between China and Pakistan, aimed at developing infrastructure and energy projects, creating job opportunities, and boosting trade and economic growth in Pakistan. Conversely, INSTC is a multilateral transportation and trade corridor, connecting India, Iran, and Russia, and providing an alternative trade route to Europe and Central Asia. Both CPEC and INSTC have the potential to bring significant economic benefits to their respective countries, but their success depends on various factors, including political stability, security situation, investment climate, and the effectiveness of governance and management of the projects. Additionally, CPEC and INSTC have different challenges to overcome, such as geopolitical tensions, sanctions, and security threats, which may affect their implementation and outcomes. Yet, there is potential for integration between the INSTC and the CPEC, there are also significant differences between the two initiatives that could create tension and conflict.
The viability of CPEC-INSTC integration depends on various factors, including political, economic, and geographical considerations.
On the political front, the two initiatives are being pursued by different countries with their own interests and priorities. CPEC is a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while INSTC is a joint initiative of India, Iran, and Russia. The geopolitical tensions between China and India and the US’s opposition to the BRI could pose challenges to the integration of CPEC and INSTC.
On the economic front, CPEC and INSTC have different priorities and goals. CPEC focuses on the development of infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan, while INSTC aims to create a transportation network connecting India, Iran, and Russia with Central Asia and Europe. The integration of the two initiatives would require a strategic alignment of priorities and goals.
Furthermore, the geographical challenges cannot be overlooked. CPEC primarily focuses on the development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, while INSTC aims to create a transportation network connecting India, Iran, and Russia with Central Asia and Europe. The integration of the two initiatives would require the development of a complex transportation and logistics network that spans multiple countries.
In conclusion, while the integration of CPEC and INSTC has the potential to create a more extensive and integrated transportation network connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, it is subject to several challenges, including political tensions, economic priorities, and geographical considerations. Therefore, the viability of such integration depends on a careful assessment of these factors and a strategic alignment of priorities and goals.
Asma Khan Durrani is an Islamabad-based expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defence and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47 Mailed @ email@example.com