Turkmenistan, Pakistan Looking To Increase Bilateral Trade

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Reconnecting rail supply chains via Iran is another spin off trade route through the INSTC

Turkmenistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Atajan Movlamov has met with President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) Muhammad Shakeel Munir, in order to discuss the development of trade relations.

At the meeting, Movlamov stated plans to develop bilateral trade between the two nations, and proposed an online conference between the ICCI and the business Chambers of Turkmenistan, to present to ICCI members Turkmenistan’s export goods and potential areas of trade cooperation between the two countries.

At the same meeting, Turkmenistan stated it can supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Pakistan to help the country meet its energy needs.

Recently, the foreign ministers of both countries, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Rashid Meredov at the 48th session of the OIC Council of Ministers in Islamabad, and noted the need for closer cooperation between Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Trade figures remain small, with Turkmenistan exporting about US$4.5 million to Pakistan in 2020, mainly raw cotton and wool hides, while Pakistan exported about US$2.5 million the same year to Turkmenistan, including medical products, jute, and citrus. The two countries are separated by Afghanistan, which due to security issues the past three decades has stunted trade, and Iran, which has been heavily sanctioned by the West.

However, if Afghanistan can illustrate some stability of government – and there are signs this could be occurring – then Turkmenistan-Pakistan trade has a chance to improve. Both countries are already connected via Afghanistan via the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, which isn’t yet fully operational but may be by 2023/24.

Another, perhaps more viable route is connectivity via Iran and links with the INSTC, and improvements made to the existing Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway link which is part of the INSTC route. This is a 677 km single-tracked railway line connecting Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with Iran and the Persian Gulf. It links Uzen in Kazakhstan with Bereket – Etrek in Turkmenistan and ends at Gorgan in Iran’s Golestan province.

In Iran, the railway is linked to the national network, making its way to the ports of the Persian Gulf as well as to Turkey. The project is estimated to have cost US$620 million, which was jointly funded by the governments of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and the Asian Development Bank. The entire line in Turkmenistan was put into operation in late December 2014.

That can now be linked to the Iran-Pakistan railway, which recommenced operations after a ten-year hiatus in December 2021.

Turkmenistan-Pakistan bilateral trade maybe small acorns, but it is noticeable that Russia’s problems are starting to have an impact on the development of new supply chains criss-crossing Central Asia – and potentially helping the reconstruction and development of future trade and security in Afghanistan.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email silkroad@dezshira.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com