CPEC: New Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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CPEC: New Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan


China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has entered into a new game theory in which new players in the shape of Taliban, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan have “pivotal roles” for achieving the desired goals of greater regional connectivity, immense socio-economic prosperity, energy & food integration and last but not the least, eradication of poverty in trans-regional domain.

Thus a new greater Eurasia partnership in the shape of new Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is “imminent” in which role of CPEC would be paramount.

In this context, formation of an interim government in Afghanistan has brightened the prospects of greater regional connectivity.

Moreover, repeated assurance and desire of Taliban to join CPEC has further “reinforced” the idea of greater regional connectivity.

Despite the US and Western propaganda against CPEC and Taliban “realignment” with China and most of the regional countries, China is all out to help the Taliban.

In this regard, China extended its holistic humanitarian assistance to the newly formed interim-government in Afghanistan by coordinating with the neighboring countries for the future roadmap about regional peace, stability, security and last but not the least, greater regional connectivity.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister H.E. Wang Yi while attending the First Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Afghan Issue among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan in Beijing via video link, mocked the US policy in the region, especially in Afghanistan, and termed it dangerous for regional peace and stability.

He considered humanitarian issues, people’s livelihoods and the COVID-19 pandemic vital for stability in Afghanistan. Inclusive government will support inclusive development, he added.

Wang Yi showcased his country’s six multi-dimensional policies about Afghanistan covering all aspects of its socio-economic and community development, health capacity building and greater regional connectivity on the basis of “shared prosperity” in which CPEC would be a connecting hub.

It starts with helping Afghanistan and strengthens pandemic prevention and control for which China has decided to donate three million vaccine doses to the Afghan people in the first batch.

It will immediately resume China-Afghanistan freight trains, support other neighboring countries in enhancing customs clearance capacity-building with Afghanistan and facilitate Afghanistan’s interaction with the outside world, especially its access to humanitarian supplies would be great help for the new Afghan interim-government.

Strengthening the management and control of refugees and migrants should be initiated and coordinated as soon as possible in which extended connectivity of CPEC would be important in the days to come.

China has been helping Afghanistan from financing the modernization of hydroelectric power stations and power transmission lines to the construction of roads, tunnels and administrative buildings.

 The Chinese “Dream of Great Rejuvenation” is the basis of its vision that would change the global landscape and pave the way for a new world order based on equality and respect.

Accordingly, the pursuit of the Chinese dream was set to become the linchpin of Xi’s foremost priority.

Chinese President Xi’s idea of “the community of common destiny” has developed as a holistic policy of the “Chinese Dream of Great Rejuvenation” because it rejects a zero sum approach to international relations and calls for political partnerships, inclusive development, multilateral security architecture and inter-civilization exchanges.

According to Xi, through the promotion of the community of common destiny, China will create an environment conducive to the development both of China and of its neighbours.

The start of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 was the first major step of greater regional connectivity, integration and neighborhood diplomacy had become China’s top priority in foreign policy. BRI advances a vector of Chinese development that is focused on regional integration and peripheral diplomacy.

Chinese trade with the Central Asian States increased from $1 billion in the early 2000s to nearly $50 billion in 2018.

According to Chinese statistics (2019-2020) between 2006 and 2017, more than 25% of total FDI in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan derived from China, while Kazakhstan has become the largest recipient of Chinese investment in Central Asia, with $16-21 billion of investment. Moreover, over the past decade, China has played a major role in large public infrastructure projects across Central Asia.

On its part, Uzbekistan has offered the use of a logistics facility in a city on its border with Afghanistan to help international efforts in supplying humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The Termiz center is designed to accommodate up to 300 cargo trucks at any given time and is connected to the rail-road grid linking Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on August 27 assured his government of bolstering humanitarian support to Afghanistan.

It reopened the “Friendship Bridge” linking both the countries on August 26, 2021. Moreover, the checkpoints at the Imamnazar-Aqina and Serhetabat-Torghundi crossings are operating and facilitating humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan which vividly reflects Uzbekistan’s holistic foreign policy towards all neighbours.

For further strengthening of bilateral trade and innovative ideas of regional connectivity, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have tested shipments by truck through Afghanistan to gauge the viability of various routes in the region which now has bright prospects after Taliban’s assurance.

Uzbekistan has now prioritized transport connectivity with Pakistan to the ports of Gwadar and Karachi over routes through Afghanistan which may be now achieved after the settlement of political dust in Afghanistan.

During February 2021, representatives of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to a roadmap for the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project, a 500 km track to be built over five years.

According to various research studies, the trans-regional railway project will be built alongside regional power projects the 1,000 megawatt Surkhan-Puli-Khumri high voltage power line and the 1,300 megawatt CASA-1000 energy project that supply power to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moreover, Pakistan and China have been trying to connect Afghanistan with CPEC. If that succeeds, Afghanistan will be an ideal connecting hub between Central Asia and the South Asia region.

China on its part is promoting its BRI & CPEC geo-economics projects that recognize “the economy forms the base of modern society” and strives to eliminate barriers to economic activity in the world’s pivotal geographic space.

Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I suggest that Pakistan, Uzbekistan and China should form a “trilateral forum” to speed-up diversified but integrated projects of regional connectivity. Greater regional connectivity is the need of hour to bring peace and stability in new Afghanistan, immense socio-economic prosperity and trade quantum jump of new Uzbekistan and last but not least giant leap for Pakistan’s newly announced transition from geopolitics to geo-economy.

In this regard, Chinese President Xi’s idea of “the community of common destiny through the materialization of “Dream of Great Rejuvenation” and Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev “ten initiatives” would be a roadmap for achieving dreams of greater regional connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia regions.

To conclude “China+Central Asia” (C+C5) partnership would be vital for further strengthening of greater political understanding, wider befitting economic propositions, world class infrastructural development and integrative mechanism of transport system in which strategic troika of China, Pakistan and Uzbekistan would be a balancing act for greater regional connectivity in which BRI and CPEC would play very important role in the days to come.

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