One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) was first introduced by Chinese government in 2013, which is a development strategy and framework that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia. It consists of two main components, the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" (SREB) and ocean-going "Maritime Silk Road" (MSR) and Afghanistan is not only part of silk route but a hub of ancient silk route.
OBOR is a great initiative that covers a collective of current and future infrastructural planned projects that includes roads, railways, airports, ports, pipelines and power plants. The prime aim of OBOR is to increase export in the long term but with the intension to invest on the historic silk route where more than 16 countries are connected. However, todays’ Belt and Road initiative is much more comprehensive than the historic silk route. Ever since it was introduces, this mega project is gaining high momentum and wider recognition worldwide.
However, China has shown interest in Afghanistan to join OBOR and Afghanistan has already confirmed it. Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi on Saturday said that “We have already aligned most of our domestic plans according to OBOR initiative”. And during a seminar held on “Belt and Road Initiative” in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conference hall on Wednesday, 29th March, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, the Deputy of Foreign Minister, told that OBOR is a very important step towards regional cooperation, regional and inter-regional connectivity.
OBOR is expected to have a significant impact on Afghanistan’s economic growth. Afghanistan once again will find its geo-economical place by connecting North and East Asia countries to South and West Asian countries. Once again Afghanistan will be an economic hub by connecting points in three main areas of transportation of goods through Wakhan corridor, Movement of Data and Movement of energy. where, CASA1000 and TAPI are the ongoing projects and the current examples of regional economic cooperation.
Indeed, it is a unique effort by China to reunite the region and it has the capacity to change many things including china’s current role into more active role in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Afghanistan needs to develop dry ports along the trade and transit routes and it’s perhaps one of those rare chances that Afghanistan has found. Moreover, Afghanistan will be able to utilize its abundant natural resources. This means Afghanistan will be both suppliers of natural resources as well as transit hub. On Saturday, during the official introduction of Nargis Nehan, as acting minister of mines and petroleum, Cice president Muhammad Sarwar Danish said that, “in our economic policy, the most helpful element would be to use the geo-politic and eco-politic situation of Afghanistan. Therefore, National Unity Government of Afghanistan led by President Ghani, considers regional economic integration as main principle towards his regional foreign policy”. In addition “Mining is one of the most important sources of income and one of the key elements of our self-sufficiency. Geological research has shown that in Afghanistan there are 1,400 types of minerals and ore minerals. Almost none of the mining operation has been utilized and throughout the history, our nation could not benefit from this important source of economy”, Danish said.
This is however, a good sign of hope and if government could grasp this opportunity, Afghan Nation will see a great change. Trade cost will definitely come down and local products will have more chances to increase. Creating employment and availability of electricity and other resources are other positive aspect of OBOR. Which ultimately leads to less dependency on foreign aids.
On the other hand security and peace building is another aspect of OBOR project is Afghanistan. This project by its nature requires security, and China would work actively on multiple dimension of peace building process to stabilize the region. China has leverage to influence other regional countries to participate in the OBOR and help to bring peace and tranquility in the region.
Pakistan, Iran also are the members of OBOR Initiative and Afghanistan’s neigbhour which can positively help in peaceful and stable Afghanistan. However, a new effective peace talk can be formed for which china’s intention would be to bring peace in the line of historic silk route.
Although Afghanistan has welcomed OBOR with great appreciation and has claimed that the domestic plans are aligned with OBOR. Local projects such as North-South Corridors, but in reality there are many challenges ahead of Afghanistan. Afghan government not only need to show a good gesture, but also need to step forward practical improvement by showing the ability to handle the security situation, curbing corruptions, fighting firmly against terrorist and narrowing their places.
Last but not least, It is worth mentioning that it is a long term win-win economic cooperation where China finds a way to revitalize the original ancient trade route with much more bigger impact than it ha, and Afghanistan will benefit in various aspects. Trade routes will once again pass through Afghanistan and Afghanistan will see the ever-dreaming economic development, low-cost trade.