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Dialogue of Cultures

Conference Panel:
A Twenty-Five Year Development Perspective
for Eurasia: Russia, China, and India

India and the Eurasian
Development Perspective

Prof. Sujit Dutta

Professor Sujit Dutta is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi. He delivered this address on May 5, 2001, at a conference of the Schiller Institute in Bad Schwalbach, Germany.

The Schiller Institute's ideas and the kind of conference you have held in the past two days, is clearly an important step in the global struggle over ideas, which is the most important in the current stage of the international system.

It is now well-recognized that the world is at a turning point in the realm of political and economic ideas. It has been so since the end of the Cold War. Large structures and ideas which underpinned Cold War era institutions, and the politics and economics of that era, have died with the end of bipolarity, Soviet disintegration, and the decline of state socialism, on the one side, and the opening up of new states and political areas.

But also, in the capitalist domain, the old institutions are not working, and are no more suitable to the kind of international challenges which have emerged since the end of the Cold War. The efforts of classical economics, underpinned by "structural realism" and neo-liberal ideas in the international relations arena, are clearly not adequate to deal with the kind of cooperative ventures which the international system—as described at this conference—currently requires. The ideas, structures, and perceptions that shaped the post-1945 order have struggled to cope with the radical and ongoing changes.

What we clearly need, is "globalization" of a different kind. We need global integration; we need dominant international ideas, that will link and make possible the kind of corridors and new institutional relations; but we need to move away from the current debate on globalization, to make that possible. It is not going to happen, unless there is a victory in the realm of new institutional thinking: In the concept and strategy of new ideas, that will link independent, national developmental strategies, with regional and global strategies.

The Struggle Over Ideas

I am extremely happy, that all of you are engaged in creating these new ideas. What is critically important, is the move away from the dominance of Cold War ideas, towards a new international structure, conducive to the current era.

The Cold War-era ideas are increasingly inadequate to deal with the very different challenges that the world now faces: the emerging tensions in America's relations with China; the huge economic uncertainties in the advanced capitalist economies of Japan, the United States, and Europe; the financial meltdowns that have hit many of the new industrial economies such as that in East Asia in 1997; the internal conflicts that are ravaging states such as Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or parts of Africa; the rise of fundamentalist political movements; and the myriad challenges of economic reform facing the large developing economies—Russia, China, India, Mexico. This is a historical point from where the international system could take several directions, depending on the kind of political forces and ideas that emerge as the dominant vision of the era.

This struggle over ideas to reconceptualize and reconfigure the international system—and the political, economic, and security institutions that are critically important for its stability and well-being—has been a defining feature of the new era. While globalization, unipolarity or multipolarity, clash or cooperation of civilizations, end of history, Asian values or general human rights, etc., have been among the more prominent issues in this debate, the fundamental issue has been to find the principles that will ensure a peaceful, stable, secure, and increasingly prosperous global community of peoples and states.

The Role of India

India is in many ways at the center of this struggle for the shaping of the structures and dominant ideas of the emerging global order. This is not normally understood in many countries. From the very beginning, the kind of ideas that the Schiller Institute is discussing and proposing, have had a strong resonance in India. They have been there since the 1950s, and the combination of a developmental strategy linked to Non-Alignment and castigation of the Cold War, meant that India has produced some of the very interesting ideas and movements internationally. The Group of 77, the struggle for a new international economic and political order: Many of these, were movements which were born in India, and had strong resonance through Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

These ideas did not succeed, because the global institutions and the major powers, did not back them. These ideas cannot come to fruition, without solid backing of Europe, Japan, and the United States, and other countries which dominate institutions.

However, the fact is that today, as these institutions face a crisis, there is a possibility that the ideas that are discussed here, can succeed. Therefore, what is absolutely important, is pragmatic notions of building this alternative model of globalization, on structural linkages, infrastructure, and new ideas of economic development.

The largest state, along with China, in terms of population, India has been organized by its post-independence nationalist leadership as a democratic, secular, federal republic. With its heterogeneous linguistic, caste, and religious composition, and the complex identity-formation of its people over 4,000 years, the notions of secular values, cooperation and coexistence among cultures, and rule of law, are crucial to its statehood and form the core of its Constitution.

India's worldview is therefore rooted in universal political values that are increasingly shaping a united Europe in particular.

For some 40 years after Independence, India followed an inward-oriented industrialization policy and a non-aligned foreign policy that abjured the power politics of the Cold War. This achieved great success. Like China, we started off from scratch—the British had built some things, but the country was left with a huge, extremely challenging economic situation. Levels of illiteracy and poverty were huge, infrastructure was poor, the educational system was poor. All that had to be developed.

In collaboration with the Soviet Union and some other European countries, and even with the United States in the agriculture sector, we built a very diversified and extensive economy over the past 50 years.

It is critical to understand, that this was a policy that enabled India to build a large industrial and scientific base covering all areas—steel, machine tools, nuclear energy, aerospace technology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, telecommunications, shipbuilding, railways, automobiles, textiles, fertilizers, cement, computer software and hardware, electronics. Today, the world software industry heavily relies on India for its well-being, and India has been very badly hit by the crisis in the software industry.

International Involvement

Since the 1980s and especially from 1991, the inward-oriented strategy has been gradually given up, as India has sought to speed up its growth rate, enhance investments in infrastructure, and modernize its industrial, technological, educational, and agricultural sectors.

This is combined with a new international involvement in international affairs, made possible by the end of the Cold War. The last era of our international involvement, was largely focussed on moving away from the Cold War, and keeping co-existence. Now, it's possible to build new linkages with Europe, Japan, and the United States, which earlier had been prevented. In this new situation, Indian policymakers have been deeply divided over the issues of globalization, and what kinds of policies are exactly beneficial for maintaining rapid economic growth.

India has been the fastest growing economy outside East Asia through the past two decades. It grew at 5.5% in the 1980s and 6.5% through the 1990s. Unlike East Asia—which grew at very fast rates largely on the basis of globalization, linked to integration into the global economy, and foreign trade- and investment-led labor-intensive exports going to the U.S. market—India has not had that integration. Until 1990, India's economy was essentially internally led.

As we have opened up, we find that the world economy is also going through a critical stage. Therefore, it is of great significance that these new ideas coincide with India's search for a globalization model: a model of economic development in an increasingly integrated international system.

These ideas of physical economy, of the Eurasian corridors, and restructuring the international economic and financial institutions, are critically important from our perspective. We have made repeated efforts in international institutions, the IMF and so on, to come forward with alternative views, of keeping alive global cooperation, and keeping a different orientation from that normally supported by the IMF and World Bank.

The national goal is to grow at 8-9% over the next 25 years, in order to eliminate poverty, create enough jobs for a growing labor force, reconstruct cities, and emerge as a global economic and political force. In fact, much of the world's growth in the coming decades will depend on the rapid modernization and expansion of the Indian and Chinese economies.

If India is to attain its economic and political goals, it needs to develop three key strategies. One, an internal strategy that will create large agro-industrial bases throughout the country, interlinked through a network of modern highways, railways and airways, and telecommunications. It will also need large investments in power, ports, and education.

India urgently needs an expansion of infrastructure, and the government is very concerned about this. We are rapidly expanding a network of national highways and railroads, and airports. This will integrate central India into the coastal and other zones.

Two, we will need an international strategy of technological, trade, and investment ties with the advanced techno-industrial states—Europe, the United States, Japan, and Russia—to accomplish modernization.

Three, India will be heavily energy-import dependent, especially on the Gulf and Central Asia. It is therefore concentrating on nuclear energy, as well as developing thermal, hydro, and solar power internally, and externally to develop access through pipelines to natural gas from Iran, Central Asia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and perhaps Indonesia. As we move towards an integrated, globally oriented strategy, the ideals of building energy and road and rail-network corridors, become extremely important for the success of the Indian economy. To interlink energy routes and energy supplies, with modern transportation corridors, this overall developmental approach is a very important one.

The Southeast Asia linkage, as well as the Iran linkage, are critically important. The kind of Eurasian rail network being proposed, has three dimensions. From our perspective, the southern Asian dimension is a vital area, to link Southeast Asia to India, and then to Iran, and then move on to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. This will go through the bulk of the population of Asia.

The link to China is already a proposal: the Kunming to Calcutta route, to link eastern India to southern China, via Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand. On the Indian side, this route already exists. We are building some of the routes in Myanmar. The Chinese have also built up to Yunnan, so it is possible, in the coming years, to complete this route.

The rapid development of India is increasingly tied to a stable, secure, and increasingly cooperative global and regional order. Creation of strategic transportation and energy corridors in Eurasia and Southern Asia are of immense significance to India. In terms of ideas, these at once address the issues of peace, stability, economic, and security cooperation across Eurasia.

However, current efforts to create these corridors face significant obstacles: political instability and conflict in regions such as the Talibanized Afghanistan-Pakistan belt, that threaten to spread into Central Asia; the lack of requisite backing from Europe and Japan; and absence of strong ties among key Asian states—India, China, Iran, Indonesia.

It is critically important in Asia, to build inter-state relations that move away from conflicts, and to expend efforts to build confidence and understanding. Nations must realize the necessity for such projects and such cooperation, in order for their own states to survive: that it is in their own self-interests, to build larger cooperative ventures and political stabilization in this area. There are big problems: Indonesia is going through a major crisis; Burma is not yet ready for many of these efforts; the Gulf area internally remains in tensions; the Pakistan-Afghanistan area has gone into absolutely backward civil war conditions; and fundamentalist Islamic trends are of deep concern, and are affecting India very badly.

Second, there is a need for Europe, Japan, and the United States to support this process. I am given to understand here, that the Maastricht process [in Europe] and others, really are a problem, in terms of providing the kind of state backing from Europe and elsewhere, which would make low-[interest] credit-driven new ideas to fund this kind of infrastructure construction. It is very important, that the U.S., Japan, and Europe, are strongly committed to develop these kinds of new ideas, and move away from the other globalization model.

This can only take place, if these ideas win out in European governments, and Germany, France, and other leading countries here, support and bring forward, new, innovative ideas for funding and financing and providing credits for these kinds of processes.

The second element, is the global cooperative policymaking changes, in the institutions of Europe, Japan, and the U.S., that can bring about this large-scale structural change in the globalization model.

Finally, there is an absolutely important demand, for the countries of Asia, for India and China, for Indonesia and Iran, and Russia and Japan, to work together to build a more stable, peaceful Asia. What is needed is much greater cooperation in terms of leadership exchanges, economic ideas, and cooperative stability and security models, to bring this about.

India is deeply interested in this. Its own proposals, for a united Asia, and an Asian relations conference, go back to 1946. The Afro-Asian movement was triggered in Delhi. These kinds of ideas have a great sympathy in India, and we expect, as we move into our own development in the coming years, to play an important role in bringing about, in cooperation with all of you, the successful change in strategy in globalization.

It is important, therefore, that key Eurasian countries focus on the political, economic, security, and technological factors that would make possible a unified developmental strategy. India has great interest in such an outcome, and would play an active role in bringing this about.

Thank you.

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Egypt and the Project
Of the 21st Century


Dr. Mohammed Al-Sayed Selim is the Director of the Center for Asian Studies in the Faculty of Economics and Political Science in Cairo University, Egypt. He delivered this address on May 5 at a conference of the Schiller Institute in Bad Schwalbach, Germany. Subheads have been added.

It is very difficult to speak at this late hour of the session, after four elaborated, marvelous presentations. So, it's a tremendous challenge for me to keep you interested in my presentation.

I would like to start by thanking the Schiller Institute for inviting me to this seminar, especially Muriel [Mirak-Weissbach]. She has done a lot to make sure, that I am here. I met her for the first time in Turkmenistan in 1996. And this was the first time to hear about the notion of the "Eurasian Land-Bridge," although at that time I was the director of the Center for Asian Studies—which I still am. But it was a very interesting idea for me, and we developed in the Center an interest in this idea. And we held a conference on the Eurasian Land-Bridge in Port Said on the Mediterranean last year, the proceedings of which will be published very soon. So I thank Muriel for alerting us to this notion in 1996, and for all the literature that she has been sending us since then.

My presentation is related to Egypt and how Egypt can serve as a link between the Eurasian Land-Bridge and Africa. I don't want to speak on Africa itself, my Sudanese colleagues will deal with that, but I going to deal with the notion of Egypt and how Egypt is planning to connect with the Eurasian Land-Bridge. So, I am dividing my presentation into four parts.

The first part will review briefly the development projects on the Eurasian landmass, using the various transportation concepts and evaluating them from the prospect of Mr. LaRouche's vision of the Eurasian Land-Bridge. Number two is to review briefly the Egyptian projects to connect with the Eurasian Land-Bridge. Number three is to assess the impact of the Eurasian Land-Bridge and the Egyptian connection with it on the Egyptian economy—Will it have a positive or negative impact? And finally, how Egypt could be a link between the Eurasian Land-Bridge and Africa—leaving the rest of Africa to the next session.

The transportation projects on the Eurasian landmass can be divided into two major components: those which were established during the Cold War, and those which were established mainly after the end of the Cold War—or were begun shortly before and are still continuing.

Projects on the Eurasian Landmass

Those which began during the Cold War are mainly the Trans-Asian Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railway, or what is called sometimes the "first Eurasian Land-Bridge." Those which began after the Cold War are mainly the "second Eurasian Land-Bridge," that is a Chinese project; the TRANSECA project, which is [a link] between the European Union, the Caucasus states, and the Central Asian states; the pipeline transportation systems, which are mainly conducted by the transnational projects; and the trans-Eurasian fiber-optic cable system projects.

The Trans-Siberian Eurasian continental bridge is the oldest of them. It is still functioning, as has been reviewed by my Chinese colleagues. It is functioning below capacity. But there is an increasing interest in that project at the moment, and I have noticed that the Russians have visited Korea recently, in order to connect Korea with the Eurasian Land-Bridge, and that [Russian President Mr. Vladimir] Putin and [South Korean President] Mr. Kim Dae-jung have met in the United Nations. And they agreed to connect North and South Korea—through the railway link, which is still missing so far—with the Eurasian Land-Bridge.

The Trans-Asian Railway started in the 1960s under the United Nations Commission for Economic and Social Development of the Asia-Pacific, connecting Istanbul and Singapore. Most of it was built, except a few parts—between Iran and Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma. But recently I have noticed that in the East Asian Forum that was held in Singapore last November, there was a decision by the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries, that these nations, in addition to Japan, China, and South Korea, are reviving the Trans-Asian Railway. They took the decision to complete the Trans-Asian Railway within six years—that is the deadline set in November 2000 in the East Asia Forum, to extend it to Vietnam, to southern China, to Korea, and to be connected to the Chinese railway system, with another extension to Indonesia.

The conclusion from this is, there is a tremendous interest in these older projects, to revive these projects, whether the first Eurasian Land-Bridge or the Trans-Asian Railway. Those projects which started after the end of the Cold War, such as the "second Eurasian Land-Bridge" connecting eastern China to Europe, which is mainly a Chinese proposal, suggested to extend the rail networks from eastern China to Rotterdam, with a total extension of something like 11,000 kilometers, through Central Asia. Already this line crossed the Alataw Pass from Kazakstan to Central Asia. The Iranians have also built the Mashhad-Tejan link, and there is a project going on now to connect the Iranian proposal with the Chinese proposal. This would be a great step in the second Eurasian Land-Bridge.

The idea is to have three connections: north-bound, south-bound, and a connection in the middle, linking this project to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Eastern and Western Europe. As I said, the Chinese railway network crossed the Alataw Pass in 1992 to Kazakstan. And in 1996, the Chinese held a conference in Beijing, where they promoted this project, and which really created tremendous interest in linking this project with the Chinese project, to develop the inner parts of China.

The other project which we have to be alert to, is the TRANSECA project, which is not only a rail network project, it is a project comprising now 11 states—five Central Asian states, three Caucasus states, and Ukraine, Mongolia, and Moldova—done in cooperation with the European Union. It is not restricted to rail networks, but includes roads, maritime transport, and facilitation of trade. It does not include building new railways; it focusses mainly on renovating the present railway network and connecting the railway networks of these countries with the Trans-European network, with an idea to connect them with Europe, mainly.

This project is the only project with an institution supervising its implementation. They established the criteria in Azerbaijan recently, and it's done basically under the European Union—in addition to the other projects which I indicated, such as the oil pipeline projects and the fiber optic projects, etc.

All these projects, in my judgment, fall short of the proposal submitted by Mr. LaRouche. When I looked at these projects, and I am quite sure that you are all aware of the components, they fall short of the Eurasian Land-Bridge proposal, which mainly focusses on building railway networks with the idea of building development corridors. It is not only building railways, but also building development corridors around the railways, with the idea of expanding the development process. And he views this as the major strategy to prevent a global economic collapse, and I agree with that completely.

Furthermore, are these projects not part of a "grand strategy" to prevent that global collapse, or a grand strategy for development? So what we need, is to assess the complementarities between these projects: How can we coordinate them as well as possible? We need also to move a little step ahead and to assess only the feasibility of these projects and to conduct feasibility studies of the Eurasian Land-Bridge, so as to convince various countries of the viability and feasibility of these projects. Some parts of this Eurasian Land-Bridge are just desert. How can you build this in a desert? It is a very important idea, but what we will need to do now, is to step ahead towards the submission of feasibility studies.

Egypt's Connection to the Land-Bridge

Now to Egypt: This is the second part of my presentation. Egypt is planning to connect with this Eurasian Land-Bridge through three main strategies: the connection through 1) railways, 2) natural gas pipelines, and 3) electricity grids.

Let me take them one by one. The first step is the connection through the railway networks. At the moment, Egypt is building a rail line, which is called in Egypt the "Orient Express." This begins—I am sorry that I don't have a detailed map of the Suez Canal—from the western bank of the Suez Canal, at a city called Verdem, crossing the Suez Canal on a bridge, and the bridge has been already built. As a matter of fact, I was coming on Egypt Air from Cairo—this is the Egyptian newspaper Al Akhbar, there is a picture of the bridge, which was established already on the Suez Canal to enable the trains to move to Sinai, and it will go north-bound something like 50 kilometers, and then will turn to the east, parallel to the Mediterranean Sea until the city of Raffah. Raffah is the city which is divided between Egypt and Israel. The total length of this railway will be 225 km. There will be a link between this line and the city of Port Said on the Mediterranean, because they are building there a development zone on the east of Port Said, called in Arabic "Sharkh," or eastern branch of the Suez Canal. So, it will be connected with the development projects of Port Said.

This project has now reached the city of Varish, which is in the middle of the line, and they are now building the second part of it to the city of Raffah. I was in Sinai last week and I had the chance to see this project being implemented. The idea is to connect this railway network with the Arab east railway network, when the peace process is completed. And this is a very important condition, that Egypt cannot continue extending this line to Israel, and from there to Jordan, Syria, and Turkey and other Arab countries, unless the peace process is completed. Which leads us to a main conclusion: that the completion of the peace process is a crucial step, if we are to move ahead with this network.

There is another movement in the Arab Orient to revive the old railway network. There is an agreement between Syria and Turkey to revive their railway network, an agreement beween Syria and Jordan, and between Syria and Turkey as well, to revive the old railway, which used to connect Istanbul to Medina in Saudi Arabia. Egypt hopes, that when the peace process is completed, it will be connected with these proposals through Israel. Of course, Egypt can go through Aqaba, can avoid the Israeli route by going through Aqaba, through the Sinai, but the cost will be tremendous, even prohibitive for Egypt.

Natural Gas Pipelines and Electricity

The second strategy is the connection through the natural gas pipelines. This project has already begun, and the idea is to build a natural gas pipeline with a total length of 950 km, beginning at the city of Varish on the Mediterranean in the Sinai, to the city of Tabaa, and from there under the sea to the city of Aqaba in Jordan, then to Amman in Jordan, then to Damascus, Tripoli in Lebanon, and to Turkey, then to Europe. It will pump something like 4-6 billion cubic meters of natural gas a day. And the idea is to expand that network later on. This project is already in progress, and an agreement has been signed among these countries.

When the idea first appeared to establish this natural gas line through the Mediterranean, Egypt found that the total cost would be high, something like $1 billion, compared to the cost of building it via Jordan-Syria and Turkey, which would cost only $700 million.

This project is already in progress, and it is not connected to the peace process; however, Egypt has decided to give Israel a link, which would be separate from the Arab link to the natural gas pipeline. But, of course, these links could be connected together later on, when the peace process is completed.

The third strategy is to connect the electricity grids, and this has already been completed. The electricity grids in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are already connected, so whenever electricity is not available in Jordan, then Egypt can compensate Jordan for that. The idea is to expand that to later include Iraq and Turkey.

Of course, this all depends as well on the continuation of the present state of no peace. If war erupted in the Middle East, then all these projects—of connecting the electricity grids, national gas pipelines, and the rail lines—will collapse.

Economic Integration Comes First

This brings me back to my original contention that there is an organic link between the political dimension of the situation in the Middle East and the economic dimension of that situation. The situation in the Middle East right now is full with tremendous, ominous potentiality of eruption of conflict and war, which would have tremendous implications for these connections.

The projects, that I have referred to, have certain conceptual and pragmatic components.

These projects reflect an alertness in Arab countries and Egypt, that we have to establish a sort of integration in the Arab Orient, and by Arab Orient I mean Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. This political and economic integration could only be done through joint projects, through development, through physical economy, which is different from the old Arab perception in the 1960s, which focussed on economic integration not through the development process, but through political decisions. We would take a political decision for integration, and take then economic considerations. This notion proved to be a wrong notion, and Arabs have moved toward the notion of establishing this economic integration through joint ventures in the physical economy. Economic integration is the introduction to political integration and not vice versa.

Also, these projects transcend the Israeli concept of the new Middle East, which effectively collapsed when [Benjamin] Netanyahu came to power in 1996. The Israeli Prime Minister was not interested in this, and 1996 was a watershed in this concept. So, a new concept emerged, that is, a concept of a new Arab East, which focusses primarily on the integration among these countries, with the view of giving momentum to the peace process, that is, to give Israel the opportunity to link with the new Arab Orient if the peace process is continued. For example, if Israel takes a natural gas line for itself, which is separate from the Arab network, it could be reconnected together, if the peace process is completed.

So, the concept of the new Arab East provides momentum to the peace process, not vice versa.

The Impact on Egyptian Interests

Will the new Eurasian Land-Bridge, the Egyptian connections to the Eurasian Land-Bridge, influence Egyptian interests?

In April 2000 we held a conference in the Center for National Studies in the city of Port Said to address this question. Will it influence our interests, and in what direction? We engaged a lot of policymakers in this conference: the Governor of Port Said, the director of the Planning Department of the Suez Canal Authority, various academicians attended, etc. The conclusion of our deliberations was that this would benefit Egypt certainly, in many respects.

I have not enough time to tell you all the positive effects on the Egyptian economy that it will generate, but, very briefly, it was concluded that it will have a positive impact on Egypt from six different angles.

This project will lead to an increase in total global trade, and Egypt would certainly benefit from the creation of new global trade. Some part of this trade would certainly go to Egypt, through the Suez Canal in particular. Also, it will enhance Egypt's strategic position as a link between Africa and Asia, because, as I would say now, the Eurasian Land-Bridge will only be able to cross to Africa through Egypt. So, it will boost Egyptian strategic interests, and certainly will benefit the Egyptian economy.

It will also create a link between Egypt and Central Asia for the first time. Egypt lacks a geographic link to Central Asia, and this is one of our main problems when dealing with these countries. So, by connecting to the Eurasian Land-Bridge, Egypt will have, for the first time, direct land access to the Central Asian countries.

It was also concluded that it will not negatively influence the Suez Canal revenues—because that was a major concern. Will the establishment of the Eurasian Land-Bridge take part of the commodities shipping in the Suez Canal north-bound or south-bound? Without going into the technicalities (which I have in my paper), it was concluded by the Suez Canal Authority itself, saying no, it will not influence us. It was found, that to the contrary, it may even increase the revenues of the Suez Canal in various respects.

Of course, it will have a positive impact on the Port Said development project, by connecting this project to the Arab Orient, to the Trans-Caucasian and Central Asian states, but will also have a postive impact on Sinai by establishing new development projects, which is a major security consideration for Egypt.

The conclusion was that the Egyptian connection with the Eurasian Land-Bridge will have a positive impact in all respects on Sinai, on Port Said, on the Egyptian economy, on the strategic location, etc.

The final question is: How can Egypt be a link between the Eurasian Land-Bridge and Africa? I am not an Africanist, and I will leave the question, of what will happen in Africa, to the Africans, but I will talk about how Egypt can be a link. Egypt is the only Afro-Asian country in the world. If you look at the map: Part of Egypt is in Asia, and the other part is in Africa. The Sinai, which represents almost 17% of the total area of Egypt, is in Asia, and the rest of Egypt is in Africa....

We have the connection between the Eurasian Land-Bridge, Egypt, and Sudan, and the connection between the Eurasian Land-Bridge, Egypt, and Libya. The first connection is, that if Egypt is connected with the Eurasian Land-Bridge, then it will be connected south to Sudan and west to Libya.

Now let me take them one by one: The Egyptian railway network has at the present no connection to Sudan. It stops at the city of Wadi Halfa south of Aswan near the Sudanese border, and is not connected to the Sudanese railway network. The problem is, that the Sudanese and Egyptian railway systems were built by Britain, and were built with different gauge systems, so they would not be connected together. The Egyptian gauge system is the standard gauge of 1,455 millimeters, the Sudanese gauge is 1,076 mm—How could you connect these two systems together? It would take tremendous work indeed, and one of them must change.

I am a little bit sensitive in assessing which one should be changed, but in one of the issues of EIR, I was surprised to learn that the Sudanese colleague has suggested—and I agree with him on this—that Sudan should change its gauge system to the Egyptian standard. This would cost something like $19 million. It's not a huge amount of money, it could be done. Especially as the Egyptian standard gauge is now more or less the standard gauge in North Africa and other parts.

From Sudan, if Egypt and Sudan are connected—and I said, the costs are not high—then Sudan could be a hub to establish different connections in Africa: connections from Sudan to Central Africa and from there across the great desert to Dakar, Senegal, a connection from Sudan to Chad, from there to Congo; a connection from Sudan to Ethiopia, to Eritrea; a connection from Sudan south to Uganda, and from there to Cape Town. And, in this respect, Sudan will be a hub for different connections to various African countries.

The second strategy is connecting the Eurasian Land-Bridge to North Africa via Egypt and Libya. The Egyptian railway network stops at the city of Salum, which is close to the Egyptian-Libyan border. There is a project to extend that railway to Libya—and this project has been in the cards for the last 20 years and has not been implemented so far, because of the political dimension of the Egyptian-Libyan relations. I once wrote a paper on this project in 1991, and I read the archives of Al Akhram newspaper, which is our national newspaper, about Egyptian-Libyan relations. And I found that this project has been on the cards at least since the last 20 years. "We are going to do it next year ... ," but then something happened in the Egyptian-Libyian relations, so the project stopped, and there are no promises so far, that this connection between Egypt and Libya will be established. It will not be a connection, but it will be an extension of the Egyptian railway to Libya, because Libya does not have an elaborated network so far. From there it can be connected with Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. And the job here will be easy, because the standard gauge of these four countries is compatible with the Egyptian standard gauge.

There are two problems here for the Egyptian-Sudanese link and the Egyptian-Libyan link: The first problem is a problem of finance. It's a main problem in the Egyptian-Sudanese case—of course $19 million is not much, but given the Egyptian and the Sudanese economies, it could be a lot of money. The second problem is a political problem, it's a problem concerning inter-African relations, which has been the case in Egyptian-Sudanese, or Egyptian-Libyan relations. And in inter-African relations in general, there are various conflicts, and most importantly, in my judgment, is the impact of foreign interventions in Africa—the role of the foreign powers in Africa. As I have said earlier, the Egyptian and Sudanese railway networks were established on different gauges by Britain. So far, in my judgment, the role of foreign powers in preventing the construction of these railway networks has been quite instrumental, especially in the case of Sudan. The foreign intervention in Sudan is tremendous; one of the major factors of the continuation of the Civil War in Sudan is foreign intervention, especially American intervention in the domestic affairs of Sudan.

Today I was listening to CNN, I heard the spokesman of the American State Department, who was astonished, how come the United States was not voted into the UN Human Rights Commission, and Sudan was voted into that commission. I said, my God, this is democracy in international relations! That's democracy, isn't it? Sudan did not come to this commission just by chance, it's democracy in the international relations—that is a democratic decision! But the man was so astonished, so surprised, as if America would put a veto on Sudan, that Sudan should not be in this world.

I think this problem should be dealt with and tackled. The potentialities are tremendous, but we have to deal with the political issues: First, I believe, if these issues are dealt with in a fair way, I think that the idea of establishing the railway network of the Eurasian landmass and linking it with Africa could be one of the major innovations and development ideas of the 21st Century.

Thank you very much.

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Central Asia's Role
In the Land-Bridge

Ramtanu Maitra

Ramtanu Maitra is an Indian engineer who headed EIR's bureau in New Delhi during the 1990s, and currently writes on Asian economics and politics for EIR from the United States. His detailed discussion of the problem of water management in the Central Asian Republics, is excerpted here.

The Second Eurasian Land-Bridge, which starts off from the east coast of China and connects Europe through Iran and Turkey, passes through the volatile and impoverished nations of Central Asia. The Land-Bridge, at this point nothing more than a long railraod carrying passengers and goods from point to point, passes through Central Asia without making any significant contribution to its economy. But in the future, Central Asia could become a developmental hub. The region's advantages are its natural reserves, toward which the entire developed and semi-developed world is looking with great expectation. With the oilmen in charge of Washington now, Central Asia will be very much in focus for oil and gas—the energy sources to which the world still remains very much attached.

While sparsely populated Central Asia, with about 30 million people, is a prime candidate for development and future prosperity, it is also a dangerous territory, and is becoming more so every day. Exploited by the erstwhile Soviet Union for decades for its resources and fertile, though small, agricultural land to raise cotton, the area has remained impoverished. Its water resources have been damaged almost beyond repair; land has been eroded; and, manpower remains virtually unskilled. While the area produces an enormous amount of poppies and water-thirsty cotton, it produces much less food grain than its population needs....

What Ails Central Asia

The Central Asian nations have problems which are unlike those of many African nations with which they are often grouped as so-called newly independent states. Only a little more than a decade ago, the area was under the now-defunct Soviet Union. The rivers belonged to one entity. With its breakup, and the formation of the Central Asian nations—Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—the river system was fragmented. The riparian rivers have a different role to play for each nation. During the Soviet days, water was exploited to produce the cash crop, cotton. Water has been diverted from rivers to irrigate the Ferghana Valley and grow more and more cotton. As a result, the Aral Sea, where the two major Central Asian rivers, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, disgorge their surplus water, is receiving less and less water. Helped by large evaporation, the Aral Sea is drying up, creating an environmental hazard for the future.

The lack of irrigation water and the countries' inability to shift quickly from collectivized farming to private land ownership, have resulted in food shortages. With the drying up of the Aral Sea, the microclimate of the area has been changed, and it is almost a certainty that the Aral Sea basin will be receiving less and less rainfall in the decades to come. The shortfall of food grain has shown up in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, most prominently. Tajikistan has a 50% shortage and Uzbekistan an almost 25% shortage. These shortages will grow if well-thought-out measures are not taken immediately.

In addition, the lack of food sufficiency will make the Central Asian nations dependent on the West and vulnerable to the economic globalization and liberalization trap.... As the Indian experience teaches, the Central Asian nations, in order to protect their sovereignty, must immediately put in place plans to make the countries self-sufficient in the coming decade. Such measures would instill a sense of confidence within the desperate population.

The water shortage has also given rise to increasing hostility between the Central Asian nations over water usage. Cotton was already being cultivated in the basin of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers before Russia took control over the area (1860s). In tahe 20th Century, the Soviet Union decided that the cotton sector had to be extensively developed to foster growth in the region. Water conservation was not a component of the program. This resulted in the drastic depletion of river flows and ground water reserves, and even to the dessication of the Aral Sea. This Sea is indeed, on the verge of disappearing, having already lost three quarters of its volume and shrunk in size by 56%. Out of 120-127 cubic kilometers per year of water supposedly arriving to the Sea, about 90 is used for irrigation, with 60-65 for the cotton industry. In some dry years, the Aral Sea was partially or totally left without inflow. The situation creates tensions between the new republics of the basin...

The Ferghana Valley, with 45% of the irrigation area in the Syr Darya basin, is one of the most ethnically mixed regions of Central Asia. All countries making up parts of the valley have territorial claims against each other, mainly because of large minorities living in districts bordering their own republic. As far as the most populous republic is concerned, around 90% of the Uzbek foreign community lives in districts bordering Uzbekistan. Uzbeks living in Kyrsgyzstan resides mainly in the Osh district bordering the Uzbek part of the Ferghana Valley.

The Water Issue

Central Asia makes up part of the arid and semi-arid vegetation zones of the globe. Precipitation and usable groundwater resources are insufficient to meet the demands of agriculture and habitation. The majority of water comes from the runoff of the high mountain ranges of Pamir and Tien Shan, in the eastern partrs of Central Asia. Most of this runoff feeds the two main rivers of the region, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, which flow west and north toward the Aral Sea.

Much of the Central Asian landscape is arid desert, with pockets of rich oases of agricultural land and settlements along the main river systems in the republics. Sources of water are unevenly distributed in the region, with four-fifths of Central Asia's water network concentrated in the smaller republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; whereas the larger, cotton-growing republics of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan can count on only one-fifth of the region's natural water network.

Much of the agriculture is possible only by irrigation, demanding sophisticated water distribution systems. The allocation of this precious water could only be realized by developing the so-called "hydraulic societies" that have an ancient tradition in Central Asia, especially in the regions of Khiva, Samarkand, and Ferghana. The "Mesopotamia" of Central Asia, the fertile irrigated land between the two legendary rivers of Oxus (Amu Darya) and Jaxartes (Syr Darya), is an ancient settlement area with a history of approximately 3,500 years. Archaeological research has revealed sophisticated irrigation systems that provided water for millions of hectares.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century, after the Russians had conquered the Khanates of Turkestan, new irrigation technologies were introduced and cotton was cultivated on a larger scale. With the consolidation of Soviet power in the early 1920s, the irrigated area was extensively developed due to the Soviet Union's most favorable thermal and soil conditions in an arid region with then abundant water resources.

However, the traditional appreciation of the once-inexhaustible water resources in Central Asia has diminished since the sovietization of the region. Since 1960, the region has witnessed a dramatic increase in the demand for water resources. Water withdrawals for irrigation are enormous. Depletion of river flows and groundwater reserves, as well as degradation of water and soil qualities, have become widespread. The consumption of water has tripled, mainly due to significant extension of irrigated agricultural land and to the rapid population growth.

The region's productive forces have been focussed exclusively on the production of cotton. A big rural labor surplus and the intention of the Soviet central planning authorities to become independent of cotton imports, led to a concentration of cotton cultivation. Since 1960, cotton production has doubled, and now accounts for almost half of the irrigated sown area. Irrigated arable land has increased by 60% in the last 40 years. Cotton monoculture is regarded as the main reason for the depletion of soil and water resources in the Central Asian Republics. Cotton cultivation is responsible for the exhaustion of nutrients, soil compression, and a massive application of herbicides, pesticides, mineral fertilizers, and defoliants to ease harvesting. Drainage water from the irrigation fields discharges these toxic substances into the main rivers. Poor water management in the Aral Sea basin is responsible for the decline in agricultural production, and due to salinity, has already taken out of production an area larger than Belgium.

Water for Agriculture

The desiccation of the Aral Sea is one of the major man-made ecological catastrophes in the world. By 1982, the extreme specialization of cotton monoculture and its irrigation practices, had led to an almost total extraction of the runoff originally reaching the Aral Sea, which has already lost 75% of its volume since 1960. The blowing away of toxic salt and dust due to the exposed sea bottom, leads to soil infertility in the once-fertile Amu Darya delta. Furthermore, the falling sea level has caused a microclimate change and a rapid decline in fish productivity [and a shortening of the growing season]. Experts expect that the Aral Sea will evaporate further in the foreseeable future.

Huge dust storms blow salt and toxic sediment far across the Sea's littoral republics—Uzbekistan and southern Kazakstan—adding to the already chronic health conditions in the region....

The Amu Darya River now feeds into the Kara Kum canal, which carries water along an earthen channel to cotton-growing areas far inside the interior of Turkmenistan. The river is also tapped by Uzbekistan for its cotton fields. Since the Kara Kum canal is really nothing more than a long, open ditch dug out of the earth, much of its water is lost, either through seepage into the earth or through evaporation as the river water traverses hundreds of miles of arid expanse.

At the cotton fields, the water saturates the land through large-scale flooding. Much of the water evaporates in the field, and what is not captured by the soil runs off into small reservoirs or back into the Amu Darya. Beginning in 1982, when water scarcity caused strict limits on the republics' water consumption, improvements in irrigation efficiency and water management in Central Asia were given top priority. The program was given added emphasis by Gorbachov....

By and large, these measures have shown some success in curbing the profligate use of scarce water resources; but no one can say with any degree of certainty whether these measures by themselves can stop the gradual desiccation of the Aral Sea. One of the more controversial proposals to provide the region with more water, would divert northward-flowing rivers feeding the Siberian steppe, back into the Central Asian Republics through an extensive network of canals.

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