Afghanistan’s Increasing Role in CPEC

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The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the main component of relations on the Beijing-Islamabad line. Sub-projects within the scope of CPEC; It is of great importance in terms of China-Pakistan connection and regional integration. Beijing and Islamabad agree that Afghanistan should be included in the project. In this context, the parties have developed various dialogues with the Taliban, which has been ruling the country since August 2021.

The 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Dialogue, held on May 9, 2023, had important consequences for Afghanistan’s role in CPEC. In a statement on May 16, 2023, Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Hafiz Zia Ahmad stated that he has decided to join CPEC, which will support landlocked Afghanistan becoming a trade hub and attracting investment.[1]

Ahmad also stated that the decision in question is part of the commitment of the Taliban administration to provide foreign funds to the country damaged by the conflicts. In addition, Ahmad used the following statements:[2]

 “CPEC will help us be part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and bring different projects to Afghanistan in the energy, rail and other sectors.”

The inclusion of Afghanistan in CPEC is not a new topic of discussion. As you can remember, this issue has come up before. However, a process is being passed at the point of taking concrete steps by taking action. Because in September 2022, allegations were discussed that a highway going to Uzbekistan would be built between Peshawar and Kabul.[3] Afghanistan’s role within the CPEC is expected to yield major benefits in regional connectivity and national development.

With CPEC, the connection to be established with the Vahan Corridor in the northeast, Pakistan in the south and Tajikistan in the north will provide Pakistan with the “shortest route to Central Asia via Afghanistan”. In addition, it will also facilitate China’s access to Central Asia. Therefore, it can be said that the inclusion of Afghanistan in CPEC has strategic importance in terms of China and Pakistan’s Central Asian policy.

Its location causes the issue of regional connectivity to be at the center of policies towards Afghanistan. Being at the crossroads of South Asia and Central Asia gives Afghanistan a strategic value. Especially for China, this geopolitical position is critical. However, Kabul’s presence in CPEC will enable easier access to Central Asia, as well as turning China’s interest in Afghanistan’s resources and reserves into tangible gains through various projects.

Efforts to include Afghanistan in regional connection projects also reveal the importance of the country. The Chabahar Port Project, which includes Afghanistan-India and Iran, can be given as an example to the aforementioned initiatives. At this point, it can be said that Afghanistan has witnessed regional and global competition due to its role.

As a matter of fact, in the projects in question, it has been acted with the aim of providing the South Asia-Central Asia connection. For example, the New Silk Road Initiative is a project that the USA brought to the agenda in the 2010s. Chabahar Port Project is based on the triple transit agreement between the mentioned countries.[4] The comfort of regional connection that Afghanistan will provide indicates that much more initiatives will be taken if stability and security are fully ensured in the country.

When the subject of being included in CPEC is evaluated in terms of Afghanistan, it can be said that the project is important in terms of providing commercial opportunities and contributing to economic stability. This, in turn, may strengthen the image of the Taliban administration in the country and internationally. At the same time, depending on the progress of the project, the expectations of the Taliban to strengthen relations and improve recognition will increase.

On the other hand, Afghanistan’s inclusion in CPEC will bring along a process in which investments in the country’s infrastructure will increase. This means an increase in the Chinese presence in the country. Therefore, it is possible that the terrorist organization DAESH, which has come to the fore with attacks on Chinese investments as well as anti-Talibanism, will mobilize.

In addition to all these, it can be expected that various radical groups will enter a new period of mobility. In this sense, while Beijing concentrates on projects and investments; On the other hand, it will try to provide security guarantee. At this point, it is likely that steps will be taken to increase military-security cooperation with the Taliban.

As a result, it is seen that Afghanistan’s regional location and geostrategic importance cause security and stability problems. Despite various compelling factors, steps are being taken within the scope of inclusion of Afghanistan in CPEC based on different foundations, primarily regional connectivity and national interests. Afghanistan, with its critical role in South Asia, could become a strategic actor within CPEC. Afghanistan’s participation in the project; The development of cross-border trade will serve sustainable development by making a positive contribution to the economic integration of all three countries. For this reason, the developments are also very important for China and Pakistan.

[1] “Afghanistan Decides to Join Multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor”, Mena,, (Date of Accession: 17.05.2023).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Extension of CPEC to Afghanistan could Link Infrastructure Across Continent”, The Rhird Pole,, (Date of Accession: 17.05.2023).

[4] “Why Afghanistan Should Join COEC”, The Diplomat,, (Date of Accession: 17.05.2023).

Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.