This paper illustrates the process of territorial transformation in time and space. From the period of Silk Road networks to imperial designs for spatial control in Central Asia, the external interests for local and regional resources were the driving forces for superpower confrontation. The Great Game is the 19th century highpoint of confrontation leading to boundary-making and restricted trade relations. Exchange across boundaries came to a stand-still with the commencement of the Cold War. In this paper constraining factors from geopolitics and internal developments within and between nation states are presented in order to understand the development gap with which we are confronted in this high mountainous and remote region of Central Asia.
Taking the establishment of ethnonymous Central Asian republics within the Soviet Union as a starting point the long-lasting consequences for the now independent states of Central Asia are discussed. The concepts of autonomy and national segregation led to the configuration of republics without historical antecedents. The independent nation states of Middle Asia are now faced with numerous border disputes, severe communication and exchange constraints and insufficient traffic infrastructures, which formerly were established for a larger union but do not comply with the needs of sovereign states of smaller size. Tajikistan's border impasse with the People?s Republic of China represents a case of communication and trade gaps. Afghanistan is a case in point for external interests and shaping of a nation state regardless of ethnic and historical considerations. The factors leading to buffer state development and the consequences resulting from imperial domination are discussed on different levels and illustrated with examples from Badakhshan. The Pashtunistan dispute led to a form of irredentism having affected Afghan-Pakistan relations until today. Pakistan in itself devotes bitterly needed funds for rural development in border disputes of which the Kashmir stalemate with India is the most costly.
The importance of reconciliation for future mutual understanding, improved exchange relations, infrastructure development, bi- and multi-lateral cooperation is underpinned by this scrutiny and investigation in past developments. The foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) might be a first step that might lead to more reconciliation in border disputes and enhanced trust and exchange among neighbouring states. Physically feasible and recognizable is the extension of the road network linking and bridging neighbours and the region.