Staunton, Dec. 4 – In a 124-page report on the development of north-south transportation routes along both the western and eastern sides of the Caspian Sea, the European Development Bank says that these routes once developed will be “the backbone” of international trade between Russia and South Asia but that still suffer from high prices and various bottlenecks.
These include the failure of those promoting it to ensure goods can be shipped not only by train but by intermodal means and that the advantages of shorter shipping times will not be outweighed by the higher costs of using this route as compared to using the Suez Canal (eabr.org/upload/iblock/c69/EDB_2021_Report_5_INSTC_rus.pdf and http://casp-geo.ru/mezhdunarodnyj-transportnyj-koridor-sever-yug-sozdanie-transportnogo-karkasa-evrazii/.)
Unless that happens, the Bank report says, it will be difficult for Russia and its Eurasian Economic Community partners, on the one hand, and India, Pakistan, and Iran, on the other, to achieve their goals for this route. And any such failure will limit economic cooperation among them and make east-west routes promoted by the West and China more important.
As the Bank points out, Moscow has promoted these routes largely on the basis that goods travelling between the Indian Ocean and Europe on this route can reach their destinations much more quickly than those going through the Suez, but high prices, the result of the reliance almost exclusively on railways, negates that advantage for most goods.
If governments along this route accept the Bank’s analysis, they will likely focus on the development of highways and especially sea lanes on the Caspian and river traffic in Russia and elsewhere in the coming months and years. If they don’t, then the much-ballyhooed North-South corridor may not become as important as its promoters have suggested.