Skip to main content

The Kosygin Plan

A.G. NooraniDecember 22, 2018

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

NEARLY 50 years ago, Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin floated in Pakistan what came to be known as the Kosygin Plan. He said in May 1969 “the Soviet Union would like to see Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and other states of this region developing mutual relations of friendship and constructive cooperation. The Soviet Union will do its utmost to facilitate this”.

None were taken in, for the core of the plan was known to Pakistani and Indian leaders. It envisaged road-building to promote regional cooperation; an overland trade route running from the Soviet Union to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The reasons for its failure are relevant half a century later, when road-building has acquired greater importance in this region. It was first proposed by Kosygin tentatively at Tashkent in 1966 to president Ayub Khan and prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and was renewed to all the three countries in 1969. Kosygin made the proposal to prime minister Indira Gandhi on May 5, 1979; to Afghanistan later that month; and to president Yahya Khan when he arrived in Pakistan. It was to be part of an Asian highway running through a dozen countries.

Recent ventures in road-building require a mature approach.


Pakistan’s instant reaction was negative. On July 10, the Foreign Office spokesman said “the proposal has little economic advantage for Pakistan”. He hit the nail on the head with resounding effect: “The Russians are now so exercised over their conflict with China that they will go to any length to isolate it from their neighbours.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

It was a hard decision for Pakistan. For, to India’s chagrin, Pakistan had received from the Soviet Union 100 TU-54 tanks in addition to 50 delivered as the first instalment. Kosygin envisaged a conference in Kabul in which Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Nepal, the host Afghanistan and the sponsor, USSR, would participate.

The lid over this seemingly innocuous idea was blown in June 1969 by Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev when he publicly proposed “a system of collective security in Asia”. Clearly, the Kosygin Plan for regional cooperation and road-building was part of the Brezhnev Plan for Asian security and both were aimed at isolating China.

Even after the Indo-Soviet Treaty (1971) Indira Gandhi rejected the Brezhnev Plan when he came to India. Both plans fell, leaving an important lesson on the nexus between road-building and politics. Narrow political interests of any side will spell the defeat of its plans for connectivity. It would be as short-sighted to allow narrow political interests to override the demands of connectivity.

Mahnaz Z. Ispahani has brilliantly analysed both factors in Roads and Rivals: The Politics of Access in the Border Lands of Asia. She demonstrates the havoc which the tunnel vision of the Great Powers can wreak. For instance, “neither the Afghan government nor the Soviet Union was overly attentive to the construction of small but important roads connecting rural areas with urban centres and with one another. Given its complex, fragmented terrain and its dispersed population, Afghanistan required numerous cheap, low-volume roads. For similar reasons, these roads were costly to construct. Highways ... were even costlier. The efforts of both the Soviet Union and the United States gave Afghanistan an excellent national highway system, but the country remained devoid of minor routes. What few rural roads were constructed were below standard, and certain towns and areas ... were not even connected to the main trunk routes”.

Dr Ispahani points out that “in the developing world, where colonial rule has been and gone, leaving a legacy of arbitrary territorial division and a physical infrastructure tailored to imperial rivalries rather than local economic and political needs, where diverse peoples and forms of social organisation have been bound together, with few resources, little technology, and on terrain that militates against movement, the story of routes and anti-routes can map the ways in which states trade off their interests in power and in progress, and can trace the course of the rivalries and partnership that shape a region’s geopolitics”.

Recent ventures in road-building require a mature approach by all — the sponsor and participants alike. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has received less study than it deserves. India-Pakistan differences cast their shadow on such projects, especially with a Modi government in power.

Few in India note the possibilities of building on the success of the accord with Pakistan in the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims, from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan to Dera Baba Nanak’s shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.

This agreement should provoke some thinking on two matters — ‘religious tourism’ across the India-Pakistan boundary and releasing Kashmir from the imprisonment which its closed ancient routes entail.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018



https://www.dawn.com/news/1452942

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Rise of China-Europe Railways

https://www.csis.org/analysis/rise-china-europe-railways

The Rise of China-Europe RailwaysMarch 6, 2018The Dawn of a New Commercial Era?For over two millennia, technology and politics have shaped trade across the Eurasian supercontinent. The compass and domesticated camels helped the “silk routes” emerge between 200 and 400 CE, and peaceful interactions between the Han and Hellenic empires allowed overland trade to flourish. A major shift occurred in the late fifteenth century, when the invention of large ocean-going vessels and new navigation methods made maritime trade more competitive. Mercantilism and competition among Europe’s colonial powers helped pull commerce to the coastlines. Since then, commerce between Asia and Europe has traveled primarily by sea.1Against this historical backdrop, new railway services between China and Europe have emerged rapidly. Just 10 years ago, regular direct freight services from China to Europe did not exist.2 Today, they connect roughly 35 Chinese…

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

Balochistan to establish first medical university

https://www.dawn.com/news/1366135

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentOctober 25, 2017QUETTA: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft for establishing a medical university in Balochistan.Health minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch made the announcement while speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.“The cabinet has approved the draft of the medical university which would be presented in the current session of the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding with the assembly’s approval the Bolan Medical College would be converted into a medical university.Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017