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Published Date: Sep 9, 2013

SDPI Press Release (September 9, 2013)

Pakistan must seek a strategic approach of ‘aligning interests’
with all countries to mutually benefit from boundless opportunities presented
by Central Asia.

This was said by Ambassador Retd.
Mohammad Khalid Khattak, Former Ambassador to Russia while giving a
special lecture on “Geo-Politics and Geo-Economic Situation in Central Asia and
Relations with Pakistan” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute
(SDPI) here on Monday.  Chairperson, SDPI’s
Board of Governors, Ambassador (Retd) Shafqat Kakakhel chaired the proceedings.

Deliberating on
current dynamics of geo-politics in the region, Ambassador Khalid Khattak said
that it’s all about energy and pipelines politics for many Central Asian states.

He said that Central
Asia is a region in transition, where most of the states got independence by
default, without any struggle and preparation.  He was of the view that regional countries are
trying to transform from quasi-independent states to full independence states
adding that their armies are still under Russian control under agreement such
as CSTO (Common Wealth Security Treaty Organizations) along with inherited structures
such as single party system.

He added that when it
comes to trade, economy and security interests, Pakistan must not tend to acquire
a position of monopoly, even in case Afghanistan. He said that honest and straight
forward approach is advisable, with a need for strategic approach of ‘alignment
of interests’ as adopted by Europe after Napoleonic Wars
.

Ambassador Khattak
cautioned policy makers on not to underestimate US strategic relevance in the
region even after the post 2014 era, and argued that US would still be a global
super power, as happened even after the withdrawal from Vietnam. He also shared
concerns of central Asian states regarding US withdrawal from Afghanistan in
2014, who fear spread of fundamentalism after US withdrawal.

He lamented that
Pakistanis have much interest but no knowledge of the region and urged policy makers
to devise policies after closely scrutinizing the situation. He said that Pakistan
have certain advantages including perceived as being a friendly country. Pakistan
can help in establishing services and banking sector, he added.

He also urged Pakistanis
to change misperception about Central Asia as being perceived as some backward nations,
but in fact they are more advanced in terms of education, infrastructure,
standard of life, gender rights and so on and hence Pakistanis must not be bother
with exporting any Pakistani model and particularly the brand of Pakistani
Islam.

Also perception about
Central Asia being landlocked is not correct as they have direct access to
china with pipeline and railway links, access to Europe, Russia, Turkey and
Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan route is one of many routes available. He said
that Afghanistan and Pakistan hold importance for energy and trade corridors.

Discussing the
current phase of geo politics in Central Asia, he said that situation is an amalgam
of interests and concerns of various powers. Talking about other powers, he
said that after the fall of communism, NATO and western allies are now
containing Russian influence in the region

He said that Russia
is reviewing its approach towards Central Asia and trying to reclaim lost
influence. “Putin has presented the idea of “Eurasian Union” which is basically
a kind of federal order consisting Russia, Belorussia, Central Asian republics,
Armenia , minus Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. This proposes a single currency,
customs, centralized security apparatus and joint defense. But Central Asian
states are enthusiastic about this and falling back on China to avoid any
implications” he added.

He informed that China
is increasingly playing the role of a balancing power with a commercial and
economical posture without any political grand design. However, he also
mentioned that China wants stability in the region to avoid any instability in
its Muslim dominated Sink yang region.  

He also discussed that
after China, Turkey is the biggest player in the region. He said that
historically Anatolian Turks originated from Central Asia and they have deep centuries
old bonding with this region. He informed that Turkey has huge investment of
7-8 billion dollars, only next to China, in infrastructure, energy, trade and construction
in the region. Turkey is also active in cultural exchanges benefiting from
common culture and language.  

While sharing the
history of Czar Russia and autumn Turkey, he said that to stop advances of
automn Turkey in Europe, European powers had a tacit understanding to allow Russian
Czar to expand into Central Asia without any resistance until it reached
Afghanistan.

He informed that Afghanistan’s
northern frontiers were drawn in those days without any participation or
consent of Afghans unlike the Durand Line.

He added that Iran
has aligned its interests with Russia whereas India is benefiting by partnering
with both Russia and west. He said that great game in Central Asia is still
going on where Pakistan needs to take wise decisions by adopting a friendly
approach to all central Asian nations.