Central Asia and South Asia are two important regions that complement each other in the fields of energy and transportation. For this reason, important projects have been developed for many years that connect these geographies. It is possible to count the construction of the Trans-Afghan Corridor among these projects.
The aforementioned project consists of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar Railway Line, which reaches 600 km in length and is the shortest route to connect Central Asia to the Middle East via Afghanistan and Pakistan. The realization of such a transit corridor will present significant opportunities for the entire region. The corridor can also revive economies that are described as “fragile”, especially Afghanistan.
In this context, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views of Ifran Shahzad Takalvi, Founding President of the Eurasian Century Institute, on the advantages of the Trans-Afghan Corridor.
Mr. Takalvi, it can be said that regional transportation corridors are effective behind the economic developments in Central and South Asia. One of them is the railway project, also known as the Trans-Afghan Corridor, to be built on the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar line. What kind of advantages do you think the countries of the region can gain from this corridor?
First of all, I must state that this project is a critical project that will contribute to regional peace. I have been saying at various fora that once implemented, this may actually turn out to be ‘Central Asia-South Asia Growth Corridor’ – together with road linkages between the three countries that are already operational. In a recent presentation, that was prepared for the mega Central Asia South Asia connectivity conference that was held in Tashkent in July this year, I had carefully calculated that implementation and proper functioning of road and rail linkages between Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan would result in significant increase in commerce, as well as growth in these countries.
Moreover, although the project started as a tripartite venture, it will actually increase connectivity and trade in the region that includes South, Central and West Asia. Afghanistan will also be the country that will benefit most from this. However, at present, Afghanistan is an actor that creates uncertainty for the future of this region. If stability is achieved in this country, security will be ensured on the entire Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Nonetheless, it is necessary to avoid the impression that this project will compete with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This is because these two initiatives are not rivals to each other. On the contrary, they will complement each other and serve the interests of all actors.
Can the Trans-Afghan Corridor contribute to the Afghan Peace Process?
As it is known, peace is not just the absence of war. What is being witnessed in Afghanistan right now is the absence of war. However, it is not possible to call it peace. Peace and stability in Afghanistan in my view serve both as causes as well as consequences of regional connectivity. First of all, the Trans-Afghan Corridor is an essential project for Afghanistan, which has been subjected to a protracted war. This connection will also contribute to the establishment of regional peace. This is because the creation of the corridor in question will pave the way for the development of Afghanistan. Job opportunities will increase and the overall quality of life will improve. In other words, Afghanistan can reach its economic potential through the corridor.
Finally, how do you evaluate the developing relations between Central Asian countries and Pakistan in the long term?
In general, it can be said that the relations have a positive course. This positive course will continue in the short and medium term. Along with this, I must state that cooperation opportunities may be limited in the long run. This is because the elements of instability in the region need to be eliminated. Maintaining relations in the long run will be related to the stability of domestic actors.
An interview on our website is the personal opinion of the expert and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).
The original version of this interview was published on The Asia Today on 29.12.2021.
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