Andrei Belianinov: The North-South Corridor will give Impetus to the Development of the Economy of the North Caucasian Federal District

15/11/2023 17:18

The North-South international transport corridor will involve the North Caucasian Federal District in logistics flows and spur its development. The ITC project itself needs digital support, says Andrei Belianinov, leader of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly.

The North-South international transport corridor, running through the Republic of Dagestan, has acquired particular importance in the context of the reconfiguration of Russia’s logistics flows, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said in the spring of 2023. The project itself, the idea of which appeared back in the 1990s, after 30 years has received a serious impetus for development in recent years. According to the authorities, cargo turnover in this direction should double by 2025 – to at least 30 million tons. The total investment in the development of the North-South transport artery from 2022 to 2030 will be about 280 billion rubles, noted Marat Khusnullin.

Secretary General of the Eurasian Peoples' Assembly Andrei Belianinov told RBC TV South about how the idea of the project has been transformed, how the transport corridor will affect the economy of the constituent entities of the North Caucasus, and what is needed for its implementation.

A project with a long history

- Discussions about the development of the North-South transport corridor have been going on for many years. The first protocols of intent were signed in 1992; in 2000, Russia, Iran and India signed an intergovernmental Agreement on the International North-South Transport Corridor; in 2002 it was ratified by all participants. At one point, 14 countries took part in the corridor. Why was such an impetus for development given only now?

- To a large extent, this was due to the situation in the 21st century. The world is being redivided and economic flows are changing. We see that logistics is changing towards the East, Asia, Southeast Asia. The need for transport routes of this level is already overripe. North-South is not an alternative to the Suez Canal. Although take, for example, the Northern Sea Route (NSR). It turned out that the consequences of global warming are opening up opportunities for the NSR, and the time for delivery of goods from Southeast Asia to Europe along this route is further reduced. This is probably the need of the hour and not just climate change, but economic development.

Let’s say India is a very serious driver, an engine of economic processes. They have excellent technologies, all the most advanced, very serious opportunities, and, of course, a growing economy. It forces us to look for other logistics solutions. We must not forget that for a long time the word “India” was synonymous with successful IT projects that have been and will be implemented with the help of Indian specialists. It would be wrong to ignore such scientific potential.

I am sure that it will be necessary to create a general directorate for this project. And this directorate will have to be broken down by type of activity. For the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly, this is also an element of public diplomacy. Meetings of people from different countries, different religions, different worldviews on such a project unite.

- How has the very idea of the project transformed over a period of about 30 years? To what extent has it changed? Initially, before the NWO, the project was been seen as a transport corridor from Europe to Iran, India and other countries. Now it is more a story about the integration of Russia and the inclusion of regions in this transport corridor.

  - I would say that this is not a Russian project and not for Russia. Russia also provides its territories and its transit capabilities for such cargo flows. Both territorial and technological.

First of all, we are talking about the capabilities of the Caspian Sea as a body of water. At the Kazan Forum, the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Iran said that, according to their experts, about 700 ships with a displacement of up to 7 thousand tons will be needed to service the flow of goods in the Caspian Sea alone. No more, because the Caspian is shallow. And sea freight is cheaper than rail or road.

Colleagues from the Yauza company looked at how the North-South corridor could be developed in Eurasia and Africa, including the territory of the Arabian Peninsula. The entire subregion will develop one way or another, and not only through transport. As soon as roads come there, logistics routes will come. If Africa was previously considered as a continent of only raw materials and resources, now everything is different. We already see the progressive development of those peoples who previously fell into colonial dependence.

There is also a proposal - it has not yet been approved - to create a tunnel through the Strait of Hormuz. The distance between the peninsula and the continent is 50 km. With modern construction technologies, this is not a force majeure event. If you dig a tunnel, the Arabian Peninsula will also be included. That is, almost all Arab countries, and all this smoothly flows into the territory of the African continent.

Currently, seven countries are included in the project. But in the future, two-thirds of the earth will be involved in this kind of logistical changes.

One approach for all

- According to your observations, what are the main problems that the countries participating in this project are currently working on?

- This is a serious interstate project and serious business interests. What is currently happening in the Middle East cannot but affect the logistics routes and directions of different groups of goods along new routes, through new territories that will be transit areas in relation to the end consumer. These issues cannot be solved without IT specialists. The most advanced technologies and approaches are needed, as well as the work of major players, not only on land, but also in the sea and space.

- You have mentioned that unified solutions and algorithms must be developed for the functioning of this entire system. Who are they currently offered by, and what does the approval process look like? Who should remain the operator?

- Unfortunately, I am not the author of this project, but an active supporter. In my opinion, an association of owners of seaports of the countries participating in this project is necessary, at least so that we have a unified policy that ensures transit, common standards, and approaches. Ultimately, this should lead to a common dispatch of maritime traffic.

In the same way, mutual understanding must be achieved between the participating countries. It is necessary to write out the score by roles - who is responsible for what, and in what part. The interests of this logistics extend far beyond the Caspian Sea. This is, in fact, a different economic world order.

Let's be optimistic: I am confident that another 30 years will not be needed for this project to be realized. It is already at the stage of practical release.

Beneficiaries of the creation of a transport corridor

- What regions of Russia will be the beneficiaries of this story? Whenever logistics routes change, some regions benefit. Who will benefit most from this project?

- This is not only the Astrakhan region, but also everything that concerns the surrounding regions. There are also shipbuilding enterprises and processing here.

Back in Soviet times, in the town of Lagan, also known as Tyulenya Banka, in Kalmykia, it was planned to build an ice-free sea port. Now in Russia there is only one ice-free port on the Caspian Sea - Makhachkala. Judging by the scope of the transport corridor project, this is not enough. If a port is located in Lagan, then this is a very serious indicator of growth for Kalmykia. And the region, of course, needs such a serious impetus for development. I would like this to be considered when implementing plans.

-Will the North Caucasus, which is located in close proximity and which has long been the concentration of subsidized regions, benefit from the North-South project? Can we expect their further development?

- It is quite obvious that Dagestan is the first beneficiary from the regions of the North Caucasus, which will receive another additional impetus in its economic development. This is not only a railway that goes to the border with Azerbaijan, and not only road transport. The flow of goods is increasing, and it will clearly be directed not only to the sea.

Following Dagestan, the regions of the North Caucasus are quite obviously involved in these transit stories. Here is the border with Georgia, where, among other things, Iranian and Armenian goods went. I believe that if we put aside political factors, which will always dictate certain conditions, business will find its way.

- Now there is a very difficult geopolitical situation, which affects, among other things, business relations. Are there any problems among the countries that are involved in this process in terms of mutual settlements?

- It cannot but exist, because there are several sanctioned countries that are absolutely undeservedly experiencing this kind of pressure on themselves. But as we see, several decades of such sanctions pressure on Iran led to the fact that it became a powerful country, a power, with its own economy, financial system, and technologies. It is a calm player in the market, which not only has undoubted advantages in terms of natural resources, but it is a country that cannot be ignored, especially in the context of the North-South project. It is quite obvious that Iran has a key position here. There cannot but be contradictions, because countries have different interests, but business will reconcile them. This is a highly profitable enterprise, there is a large cash flow here.

In my opinion, the path to popularizing this project will certainly be accompanied by what we now call dedollarization and settlement in national currencies. Everything is ready for this. There are many options, one of them is bilateral trade clearing. In Soviet times, there was an international bank for economic cooperation, which, in essence, dealt with clearing settlements among countries belonging to a single economic system or bloc. And it turned out to be very effective. The goods move towards each other, and then, with some frequency, results and calculations are summed up. And you don’t have to pay in gold.

What is now still perceived as heresy is cryptocurrency, blockchain, new payment systems. I think they have already taken their place in the market and will develop dynamically, and this project will contribute to this. And, returning to where we started - without information technology specialists - this will not be solved.