Peace in Afghanistan is key to economic development in the region – OpEd – Eurasia Review

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Afghanistan is entering a new phase after the withdrawal of US forces, fear of a destabilized Afghanistan and the looming threat of a humanitarian crisis have heightened potential challenges for neighboring states. For Pakistan, stability in Afghanistan means stability in Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan has not only pledged direct humanitarian assistance, but has also raised global awareness to engage with Afghanistan for the benefit of average Afghans, who are suffering from poverty, Covid-19, poor health and cold. Pakistan remained committed to facilitating and supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan, in close cooperation with the international community. Despite the economic stranglehold, Pakistan is providing selfless assistance to Afghans to address economic, humanitarian and security issues. Pakistan facilitated Afghanistan in trade, transit and business. Pakistan believes that economic development is the key to prosperity for any country and that Afghanistan’s potential as a gateway for economic connectivity with Central Asian states is a key driver not only for the Afghanistan but also for the region. Afghanistan’s economic integration will bind its government and can influence its policies in a positive way.

Economically, Afghanistan is unstable because after the Taliban took power, the international community froze Afghan assets. The Afghan economy is aid dependent, 75% of government spending depends on grant funding. It is estimated that around half of the 40 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has also warned that around 97% of the Afghan population could fall below the poverty line if the country’s political and economic crises are not resolved.

After taking control of the country, Taliban leaders traveled to neighboring states to secure humanitarian aid and boost trade. The 17thand In January 2022, the high-level delegation headed by Acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi visited Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and held a meeting with the Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Mr. Rashid Muradov and other Turkmen officials. The meeting focused on bilateral political, diplomatic and economic relations, security cooperation and the rapid launch of TAPI, TAP, education and scholarship projects. The two states have agreed to use Afghanistan as a transit route between Central Asia and South Asia and to transport liquefied natural gas, minerals, food and other commercial goods through this route.

CASA-1000 is a $1.16 billion project currently under construction that will export excess hydropower from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and eventually to Pakistan. The project was signed earlier in 2008 while the inauguration of this 1,270 km power transmission line took place in May 2016 by the leaders of the four nations. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2023. A total of 1300Mw of electricity is expected to be transferred through this project. Afghanistan will receive 300 MW of electricity while Pakistan will receive 1000 MW of electricity.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline will be a 1,814 km transnational gas pipeline crossing four countries. Also known as the Peace Pipeline and Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, the TAPI pipeline will start in Turkmenistan and cross Afghanistan to enter Pakistan and India. The project was previewed earlier in 1990, but the execution remained delayed until 2008, when it was officially signed. Work in Tajikistan has been completed while work is ongoing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban agreed to support the project. The $8 billion TAPI gas pipeline project is facilitated and coordinated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The success of both projects will directly contribute to peace and political stability in the region. Common economic interests and projects will further strengthen the commitment of countries in the region to counter extremism.

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Dr. Moeed Yusuf visited Kabul on January 29-30, 2022 and discussed the different paths of economic development between the two states. The two countries have agreed to start port trade and have shown their determination to complete the CASA-1000, TAPI and Trans-Afghan Rail projects. CASA-1000 is very important because it establishes Afghanistan’s status as the main transit country between Central Asia and South Asia. TAPI would help Afghanistan consolidate its role as a transit country. Pakistan has offered assistance to Afghanistan in education, health and other areas. The two sides agreed to establish a coordination mechanism at the national level to improve facilitation at border crossing points and expedite the ongoing negotiations to conclude a new trade agreement.

Peace and stability in Afghanistan will improve transit connectivity throughout the Asian region, as Afghanistan’s instability will impact neighboring instability and its stability will also influence regional stability. A peaceful Afghanistan will be beneficial for the region and especially advantageous for Pakistan. An overland route from Afghanistan to Central Asia will provide a more efficient and cheaper alternative to current routes from Pakistan via Iran or China. Through this link, Pakistan would indeed be able to gain trade opportunities for its goods and agricultural products and improve its relations with Afghanistan and beyond. Afghanistan will pave the way for Pakistan to grow more economically. Economic connectivity is linked to peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan in particular and the region in general will face the economic burden of Afghan instability. The economic development not only of Pakistan but of the region depends on peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s proposals for deepening economic engagement are aimed at overcoming the current challenges facing Afghanistan.

* The author is an analyst based in Islamabad and can be contacted at [email protected].

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