The Key to Stability in Afghanistan Is the Belt and Road Initiative
At recent meetings and conferences held in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the stabilization of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops was high on the agenda.
An important flank involves integrating the country into two major international connectivity projects: the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the North South International Transportation Corridor from St.Petersburg, Russia, through Central Asia and Iran, and down to Mumbai, India.
First, the foreign ministers meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) took place on July 13-14 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, who were joined by representatives of Afghanistan for the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group meeting. The joint statement issued by the foreign ministers stresses the territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and respect for all its peoples and cultures.
The two corridors were addressed more directly at the “International Conference on Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities” organized by the Uzbek government and held in Tashkent on July 15-16. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese and Indian counterparts, Wang Yi and S. Jaishankar, attended, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the heads of state of Uzbekistan and Pakistan, the foreign ministers of India and Turkey and diplomatic representatives from the United States, Japan, and the European Union. The conference afforded the opportunity for numerous bilateral meetings among those leaders.
On this sidelines of this meeting Lavrov attended the fourth meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the same five Central Asian republics, and also held a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan used the occasion to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, after which they reiterated their support for the Termez-Mazar-i-SharifKabul- Peshawar railway project which would link the two countries through Afghanistan, and then connect into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Interestingly, the U.S. delegation signed a joint statement with the 5 Central Asian countries calling for “seeking opportunities to strengthen connectivity between the Central and South Asian regions via trade, transport, and energy links”, for never allowing “terrorists and third party forces to use Afghan territory” to threaten other countries, and “advancing cooperation with Afghanistan across security, energy, economic, trade, cultural, and other lines of effort…”