On Tuesday, those pushing the interconnectivity of Central and South Asia saw, according to Pakistani officials, an “historic accord.” Representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan gathered in Istanbul to formalize agreements behind the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000). Planned to export a total of 1,300 MW of excess summer electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – sending 1,000 MW to Pakistan and 300 MW to Afghanistan – and to be completed by 2018, the agreement, according to Pakistani politician Khurram Dastgir Khan, represented the final touches of a “visionary project.” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Fatema Sumar said that the signing showed the region “taking real steps to connect their energy grid[.]”
Lofty speech and admirable goals. But given the current energy situation on the ground – and for the foreseeable future – CASA-1000 currently stands as another interregional project stocked with rhetoric but short on reality. Much like the U.S.-backed TAPI pipeline, CASA-1000 appears largely an exercise in pointlessness – a waste of time and capital, and further evidence that Washington’s policy in the region remains stuck on projects that show a disconcerting lack of understanding of the facts on the ground.