For years, China has been striving to revive the ancient Silk Road and expand it into a global land and maritime trade network to connect itself throughout the whole of Eurasia.
Nevertheless, Afghanistan has been peripheral to China’s intercontinental project because drastic security conditions have made it impossible to pursue a serious economic agenda there.
The Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is a vast network of infrastructural projects. I believe that the implementation of BRI will inject investment into Afghanistan to help build transit routes and other infrastructure projects. Afghanistan, a country currently grappling with the menace of poverty, can benefit enormously from the initiative.
The country will have a grand opportunity to export marketable goods and merchandise to Central Asia, the Gulf area, South Asia and China in particular. These goods include rugs, dried fruits, vegetables and so much more. This will ultimately trigger economic growth – which is categorically the most important need of the hour for the impoverished nation.
In my opinion, Afghanistan can benefit more than any other country from the BRI. There is a vast infrastructure deficit and minimal capacity to provide a healthy investment vista. BRI could change the scenario and help the country to build the infrastructure it needs and prepare for large-scale trade.
As far as I’m concerned, China is willing to make Afghanistan a bigger part of its regional economic program. In 2016, China and Afghanistan entered a new phase of economic cooperation; Beijing and Kabul signed a MoU on the BRI.
The first Chinese cargo train carrying goods valued at $20 million arrived in the northern Afghan port city of Hairatan after a journey of about two weeks via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan also sent its first cargo to China in September 2019 through Hairatan port in Balkh province, northern Afghanistan. The train was loaded with 41 containers of semi-finished stone of mineral talcum powder.
Under the BRI, China has built a huge vocational school in Afghanistan. Started in 2017, the construction of Afghanistan’s vocational and technical institute finished in (April,) 2019. It’s a facility that will provide technical education to many youths. There is a school building auditorium under construction at Kabul University. This project started in October 2017 and is expected to complete by the end of 2019.
I know the benefits are beyond this.
The others include the resumption of Kabul-Urumqi direct flights. And I’m happy that China is one of Afghanistan’s largest business partners. Afghanistan has huge potential and a lot more to offer. It is the shortest route between Central and Southern Asia, and between China and the Middle East, while also serving as a gateway to the Arabian Sea. I firmly believe that China will be able to use this opportunity to cut transit costs and time and obtain easy access to South Asia and Europe.
Afghanistan has a severe infrastructure deficit, making it an ideal candidate for Chinese Investment. That’s why I expect more Chinese support to my country and vice versa for meeting our common interests and mutual benefits. The BRI can be a bastion to materialise those unmet achievements.