Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway beneficial for region

By: Aynur Jafarova

The Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway, solemnly commissioned by the presidents of the three countries, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan and Hassan Rouhani of Iran on December 3, is beneficial for the region, particularly the participant countries.

Being part of the North-South international transport corridor the railway was constructed with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). It is 925 kilometers in total, with 85 kilometers in Iran’s territory, 700 kilometers in Turkmenistan and the remaining 140 kilometers in Kazakhstan.

Preliminary estimates show that annually 3-5 million metric tons of cargo will be transported via this route. In the long term, the transportation will increase to 10-12 million metric tons.

Now a question rises here: what are the pros and cons of this railway?

Kazakhstan to increase exports

Located in the heart of the Eurasian continent, Kazakhstan’s territory is around 2.725 million km2. It is the CIS’ second and world’s ninth largest country. But Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, which has limited access to waterways. Therefore, the country is interested in expanding its participation in various transit and transportation projects.

In his message to the Kazak people, President Nursultan Nazarbayev made a strong emphasis on the active development of transport infrastructure. From this point of view, the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway is fully in line with Kazakhstan’s new economic policy.

Since the start of implementation of this project, Kazakhstan supported it with an aim of finding an additional route to transport its goods.

Grain is a branded product of Kazakhstan. This railway paves the way to export Kazakh grain to its largest customer Iran.

This railway can also be used for the transportation of Kazakh oil, in particular again to Iran.

Turkmenistan to benefit from transit

Occupying an advantageous geographic location, Turkmenistan has its own economic interests in this project. In particular, the country is interested in benefitting from the transit of goods through its territory. For Turkmenistan, these are the products of oil refining, chemical industry and construction sphere, as well as fruit and vegetable products and so on.

Experts believe that the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway will strengthen Turkmenistan’s positions as a key transit and transport hub of regional and continental importance.

This is not only economically and commercially viable project, but also a major factor in geopolitics that can have a major positive impact on the entire situation in the region and beyond. It is a project representing an important factor of stability and security in Asia.

Iran to strengthen position

Risk Assessment Group Director Dosym Satpayev told Trend Agency that Iran is now trying to strengthen its position in Central Asia. The Central Asia and the Caspian Sea regions are zones of vital economic and political interests for Iran. “ Iran’s support for such projects shows that Tehran is ready to strengthen its cooperation with the regional countries.”

“Symbolic participation is more important here. That’s to say, the country needs to show that Iran is an important partner and a very good friend of the Central Asian region,” the expert said.

Possible member-Russia

Russia can join this railway in the future. The country could use this route to supply its goods and other products to Iran as well since the rules of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union provide it with an opportunity to transport its goods on Kazakh territory free of duty.

The railway can connect the members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries.

It is believed that all regional countries will benefit from the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway which will ensure the development, security and stability of regional countries linked to each other. The railway will also ease the swap and transportation of energy and oil products in the region. Transfer of goods among the regional countries will cost less and be more economical.

The railway project will also give easier access for Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman, China, Turkey, Europe and the Mediterranean.