Turkey, Iran and Pakistan are among the few countries that are considered as emerging powers and geopolitical keys in the world. The three states have recently started working together through various strategies to overcome the obstacles in the way of development and influence. One of these strategies is to establish a strong regional communication system by activating the Eurasian Organization Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).
In a continuation of Eco’s creation of a free trade zone, trinity finalized a decision to run 6,500 km of railways at the 10th meeting of the company’s transport and communication department in December, 2020. The plan to launch the rail network which covers one-sixth of the world’s total area may seem like a dream, but the company has hinted that it will soon become a reality. At the 14th ECO Summit on March 4, 2021, they announced plans to build a large network. At the summit, Turkey stressed on the implementation of the Eco-Trade Agreement as well as the importance of Eco Bank. Kazakhstan’s President Qassim Jumart also called for the launch of the 2016 Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, which connects China, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The plan adopted by Iran, the founding father of ECO, in recent years to build its infrastructure indicates a radical change in its communication system. Iran, a geographically important country, has already taken a number of initiatives to make its country a hub for intercontinental communications. ECO member states Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan has no seaports, so Iran wants to establish its seaports as import-export routes for countries. Evidence of this can be found in the latest release of a development plan from Iran on March 8, 2021. The managing director of the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization said that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s largest seaport will be built in the Sea of Oman. “The development of the port and the establishment of a commercial port are the most important issues for Iran at the moment. The move to build a port in the Sea of Oman is a strategic move by the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization,” he said. On the same day, Ishaq Jahangiri, the first vice president of Iran, said that at present Iran has railways connected to almost all parts of the world, and in the future his country’s railways will also be connected to the Mediterranean. He said that after the launch of the railway line from Basra in Iraq to Shalamcheh, the Syrian railway line would be rebuilt and through it the Iranian railway line would be connected to the Mediterranean. As a result, neighboring countries that cannot enter international waters due to lack of seaports will be able to use Iran’s capabilities for import and export.
The recent launch of the Iran-Pakistan-Turkey freight commercial train, after a long period of planning and diplomatic setbacks, will undoubtedly play a major role in trilateral relations and international trade. The ECO unites the Arabian Sea and South Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and Europe, respectively. So, this trade alliance of trilateral powers is now one of the hot topics of discussion in the world.
Founded in 1985, ECO has three founding members, but in a short period of time it has added seven more Central Asian countries. But the main reason behind the alliance becoming so active in the last five years, which was formed four decades ago, is the US sanctions. In recent years, US relations with Pakistan have deteriorated, as have US relations with Turkey, a notorious NATO ally. In this context, three countries have activated Eco under the supervision of Iran, behind which China is playing a key role. According to the popular Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia, the 6,000-kilometer-long railway, which will reach China’s Xinjiang province, will be linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Also, at the Echo Summit on March 4, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that they had found a Chinese BRI comprising Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 and acknowledged that they would support the initiative on a “win-win” basis. The 2,600 kilometer rail line in Iran, 1,950 in Turkey and 9,000 km in Pakistan will set a unique precedent by making 21-day travel possible in just 12 days. It will take 12 days to reach the destination and each train will be able to transport 650 tons of goods. The launch of the eco-train between the three countries is basically a sign of friendship.
The much-discussed railway is set to become operational at a time when the Biden administration is beginning to manifest a belligerent attitude in the Middle East and is signaling a return to a nuclear deal with Iran under various conditions. But on March 3, 2021, Iran signaled to the French president that there would be no further talks on the nuclear issue. Also, in the last week of February, 2021, the Biden administration issued the first warning of an attack on an Iranian-backed group in Syria in the Middle East. In response, rebels fired rockets at a U.S. base in Iraq on the morning of March 3, 2021. More than 160 U.S. lawmakers have recently written to President Biden to impose sanctions on Turkey. And in preparation for this, Iran-Turkey-Pakistan is going to launch one of the major trade routes of Eco, which will be a blessing for China in the near future. China is also being prepared. In the Belt and Road Initiative project, China is rapidly advancing the work in Iran’s strategic Chabahar port and Pakistan’s Gwadar port to establish strong maritime connectivity connecting Central Asia and Europe.
The first anti-US coalition and its activities were officially unveiled in the speech of the Speaker of the Iranian National Assembly Dr. Larijani at the International Conference on Terrorism held in Islamabad, Pakistan on December 26, 2020. He cited the Iran-Turkey-Russia alliance as an alternative to the US-led alliance, and called on Pakistan and China to join the alliance. Evidence of its relevance and effectiveness can be found in the recent Iran-Russia and Turkey-Pakistan military exercises. Most recently, Turkey and Pakistan have officially announced their decision to jointly produce warplanes and missiles.
Russia-US tensions have risen since the Biden administration took power in the United States this year, prompting the Biden government to impose sanctions on Russia over allegations of poisoning and arrests of opposition leaders. On the other hand, the United States has been using the issue of Uyghur torture to ban it and reduce China’s acceptance in the world. On the other hand, the veto of China in the first meeting of the UN Security Council and Russia in the second meeting against the coup of the junta government in Myanmar indicates that China and Russia may unite to thwart the US intervention in Asia.
Finally, in light of the current situation, it can be assumed that China and Russia, in their own interests, will help expand ECO’s activities in Asia and Europe, which is expected to be effective enough to corner Americans in the region. In contrast, how the United States uses its allies and what strategies it adopts in the region remains to be seen.
The author of this article is studying at University of Chittagong.