Sunday, January 7, 2018

CPEC is viable option for Afghanistan

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/265817-cpec-is-viable-option-for-afghanistan

Waqar Ahmed

January 8, 2018

On 29 October 2017, a shipment of 15,000 tons of wheat arrived in Afghanistan from India via the Chabahar Port, which was received in the Afghan city of Zaranj with jubilation. The consignment was the first out of the 1.1 million tons of wheat committed by India for the people of Afghanistan on grant basis and was projected in the media mainly to celebrate the launching of the newly-constructed Chabahar Port.

However, the huge quantity of wheat being supplied to Afghanistan in the name of grant was from the old stock, infected and injurious to health. Due to administrative mismanagement and red-tapism in India, a large amount of wheat stocks got unnoticed for years and ultimately expired. The issue has already been discussed in various talk shows in the Kabul News TV by anchor Wahidullah Ghazikhel and Shamshad TV.

The Indian government’s recent move of demonetisation of currency notes in the country also added to further infecting these already expired stocks of wheat as the Indian farmers did not have new currency notes to purchase seeds, which were earlier being provided to them from these old stocks and they ultimately used the fresh yields as seeds.

The issue of hasty launching of the Chabahar Port came to a head in the wake of Gwadar becoming the focus of global attention due to being the junction of CPEC. Therefore, in order to fulfill its so-called strategic agenda with maximum projection, India provided the wheat from its expired stocks, giving it the name of grant. It was done not only to project the launching but with a softer Indian image, ignoring the health of millions of Afghans who would be using this wheat as their basic food. The issue can have serious implications for the health and lives of Afghans who have already been suffering from food and health crisis since long due to continuous crisis and displacements.

Earlier, Afghanistan had expressed its strong desire to join the multi-billion economic opportunity in the shape of CPEC when in October 2016, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal, emphasised his country’s interest in joining it. However, a year later Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s disappointing statement regarding his country’s joining of CPEC, followed by his joining of the Indian venture Chabahar Port, gave a setback to the earlier progressive and pragmatic approach of the Afghan nation.

As a landlocked, terrorism and militancy prone nation, Afghanistan is in desperate need of infrastructural development and uplifting of its economy. Thus, by joining CPEC, an ideal environment of trilateral cooperation can be developed in the region, which can benefit all parties involved. Afghanistan can particularly gain enormously by not only benefiting from this Chinese investment but also can have an active role of both China and its strategic partner Pakistan in bringing stability and peace in the war-torn country.

CPEC is predicted to bring industrialisation and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will obviously benefit the neighbouring Afghanistan also.

Kabul is only 1,237kms away from Gwadar whereas the distance between Kabul and Chabahar is 1,840kms. It means Gwadar is more suitable for Kabul because it is more than 600kms nearer to it as compared to Chabahar. Gwadar is much more a commercially and economically beneficial route for Afghanistan with much less logistical expenses. The newly-built roads in Balochistan will enable Afghan businessmen and investors to access the enormous consumer markets in South Asia, thereby increasing Afghanistan’s exports and reducing the costs of imports.

The Afghan leadership should join hands with the leadership of Pakistan and China to work together for creating a conducive security environment for CPEC, which can bring the three nations under a common economic, commercial and industrial umbrella which, in turn, can ensure joint efforts for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.

China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project could provide hope and opportunities for the war-torn Afghanistan. However, for the hope and opportunities to take shape, Afghanistan must cooperate with Pakistan and China in order to make its inclusion into CPEC a reality

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