From Eurasia to Greater Asia
Agha Iqrar Haroon
A Greater Asia bloc is emerging over Eurasian foundations. It will be an expansion of Eurasian idea of Russian President Vladimir Putin who did not include South Asia into his vision when he was drawing map of Eurasia. His conceptual map wished to link Lisbon with Vladivostok —- the deep Eastern part of Russia that is heading over Southeast Asia (Far East) leaving South Asia untouched. However, the Sino-Russia integration has provided a strong base to expand Eurasia into a Greater Asia bloc.
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) was offered by President Putin only to former Soviet Union states of Central Asia and Eastern Europe for linking Vladivostok with Europe economically. EEU is operational reasonably but failed to attract many countries of former USSR like Uzbekistan.
Russia was not as closer to China as it is today when Vladimir Putin was drawing Conceptual Map of Eurasia though Sino-Russia integration was on its way but was not as consolidated as in year 2017. Ukraine crises changed the entire scenario of Europe and Eastern Europe. Russia who wanted to stay with Europe as a friend was declared a “badly behaved boy” by western powers.
Western sanctions and stiff reaction of US backed European Union (EU) against Russia reconfirmed that Russia was neither a friend nor a foe for countries like Germany and France. Almost same time when Ukraine crises was alienating Russia from Europe, Middle Eastern crises provided an opportunity to Moscow to managed its reentry into Middle East arena where United State was playing solo role after disintegration of USSR.
Middle East crises and process of lifting international sanctions on Iran provided an opportunity to Russia and China to stand as allies and both immediately intercepted US desire to play alone in Middle East. Now, Turkey— a strong country of Europe as well as of Asia also stands with Russia though it is a NATO member and had been instrumental for realizing US agendas in Middle East till a failed coup that took place against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016.
This week, Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire in Syria with the help of Iran—leaving no room for United States to play a role of “Sole Master” in Middle East. Therefore, with changing world around Russia, the vision of President Putin of a “Greater Europe” (European Union and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union), is being replaced by a “Greater Asia — a form of a bloc comprising of China, Russia, Central Asian States, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
The only irritant for Pakistan to join Greater Asia is its current Middle Eastern foreign policy as Pakistan is closest ally of Saudi Arabia in South Asia while Saudi Arabia has its own interests in Middle East that are in contradiction with Turkish, Russian and Chinese interests. Iran is being considered as enemy by Saudi Arabia while Iran is being seen as major component for emerging Greater Asia.
Russian Think Tanks consider Pakistan a country that wishes to live with Middle Eastern world under the leadership of United States and Saudi Arabia instead of joining Greater Asia while Chinese Think Tanks stress that Pakistan is one of the closest friends of China and Greater Asia is not possible without embracing Pakistan into folds. Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the biggest example of Chinese dependence on Pakistan in the region and One Belt One Road idea of China looks impractical without CPEC and Gwadar Port of Pakistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also in favour of linking Pakistan with Greater Asia because of its geopolitical situation and proximity with Central Asia—South Asia and Middle East. Central Asian States also look towards Pakistani Deep Sea Gwadar Port as shortest route to sea as CPEC road network is already semi-operational through Kashgar (Kashi) forgetting linkages through troubled Afghanistan.
Though China has invested a lot in Afghanistan and laid down a railway network to link Afghanistan with China via Central Asia but hopes are not high for keeping this railway track live. Increasing presence of India in Afghanistan is not irritating Pakistan only but also making China cautious about the future of its investments in Afghanistan because India considers itself the only super power of Asia and had been in wars with China in past. India is also a strategic partner of United States in the region and of course it wishes to curtail China as much as it can.
Meanwhile, Russia is already becoming closer to Pakistan and drifting away from India due to Indian diplomatic wedlock with United States.
In this scenario, it looks that India may not be a part of “Greater Asia” designed by China and Russia. In simple words, India has no place in Greater Asia as this concept is emerging under “Sino-Russia integration”.
“Greater Asia” is likely to emerge as a military cum trade and investment zone covering all of central, northern, and eastern Eurasia. Beijing-led and Moscow-endorsed initiatives including One Belt One Road, CPEC, Silk Road Economic Belt and Northern Sea Route have already provided economic base for “Greater Asia”. One can see that Moscow and Beijing have agreed to “pair” their One Belt, One Road project and the Eurasian Economic Union. China is playing its role as Bank and Russia can be a big Gun for Greater Asia that will have a strategic context also”, believe Eurasian development observers.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.