Pak, China eyeing ‘bigger economic bloc’ between Asian nations


Pakistan working to form new alliance of Asian nations for greater economic connectivity

Official source dismisses notion efforts by Pakistan are aimed at sidelining SAARC

Kashgar route of China to be used as principal link with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, other states through Karakoram



Pakistan is quietly scrambling to form a greater economic alliance of South Asian nations with other Asian allies to outmanoeuvre the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.

“Yes, using Pakistan’s strategic geographic location and its clout on other Asian states, Pakistan is working to form a new alliance of Asian nations for greater economic connectivity between South Asian, Central Asian, West Asian and East Asian states,” a senior diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed while talking to this scribe on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that Pakistan was, while benefitting from its geostrategic location, working on half a dozen economic and energy corridors to link South Asia with Central Asian, West Asian and East Asian countries.

The source, however, rubbished the notion that the efforts by Pakistan were aimed at sidelining the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). “This is childish to think that we are trying to sideline SAARC. We are just planning to explore the ways and means to avoid terrorism-hit countries like Afghanistan which is a major impediment in regional connectivity,” the source said.

Asked to elaborate, the official said that since peace efforts were failing in conflict-hit Afghanistan, Pakistan and China had decided to use Kashgar as a new venue to link South Asian states with central Asian states.

“Pakistan is the shortest possible route to central Asian states. We have decided to also use the Kashgar route of China as the principal link with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and other central Asian states through the Karakoram Highway which is not only safer but a shorter route too,” the source added.

The official said that Pakistan was in close coordination with other South Asian states for the new economic bloc.

“China, Middle East, Iran and some Central Asian states have already expressed their willingness to join this larger alliance of like-minded South Asian states with central and east Asian nations,” the source said, adding that this was the reason behind a flurry of high-profile visits between Pakistan and other regional powers.

“Around 15 high-level exchanges have taken place during the recent past between Pakistan and other friendly states. They are all part of the efforts by Pakistan to form a greater economic alliance,” the source added.

The source said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had recently visited some of these central Asian states while the top dignitaries of these countries had also visited Pakistan. The official further said that the initiative also augured well for China which would be playing a key role in persuading Central Asian republics and Iran to join the new arrangement.


Asked whether the new economic bloc would include India, the official said India was an important regional player and Pakistan would welcome if it joined the new alliance. “Yes, why not? We are open to India’s joining of the new bloc,” the official said. Asked why India would be welcomed as the hegemonic designs of the Indian establishment may also turn the new alliance into a failure like the SAARC, the diplomat said that China’s presence would help strike a balance.

“India would not be in a position to dictate terms on the bloc,” the official said, adding that Indian involvement would be a sign that India also wanted to remain positive to reap the dividends of regional connectivity.

Meanwhile, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Pakistan’s special envoy on Kashmir, also hinted at the same development during his five-day visit to Washington.  He said that this group would be more effective than the SAARC.

“A greater South Asia is already emerging,” said Mushahid in one of his interactions with the media.

“This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian republics.” “We want India to join this arrangement as well,” added Mushahid.