The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.
Articles

Silk road a golden route for Afghanistan

Firooz Ahmad Ebrahimi

Part I

The term’ Silk Road’, a name that carries the weight of centuries of trade and cultural exchange, was first coined in the late nineteenth century. The honor of selecting this name goes to the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. He aptly chose this name as it symbolized the primary commodity that was transported along this Chinese silk, which found its way to the Mediterranean Sea and various other regions. This route derived its name from the highly profitable trade of silk textiles exclusively produced in China. During the Parthian Empire, a trade network extending to East Africa and the Mediterranean Sea was established. Chinese silk was widely welcomed in Rome, Egypt, and Greece in the early first century AD. Alongside silk, a myriad of other Eastern goods traversed this route, each contributing to its economic significance. These goods included tea, spices, perfumes, and Chinese ceramics, all of which played a crucial role in the cultural and economic exchange facilitated by the Silk Road. But the Silk Road was more than just a trade route. It was a conduit of ideas, beliefs, and cultures. From the bustling markets of Chang’an to the distant lands of the Mediterranean, it carried not only goods but also the rich tapestry of human beliefs. It was a path where Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity found new homes, shaping the world as we know it today. Moreover, the Silk Road was not just a conduit for trade and cultural exchange; it also played a significant role in the transmission of diseases. In the second and third centuries, diseases such as the plague spread along this route, causing a decline in population in China and the Mediterranean and subsequently weakening the empires in these regions. Thus, the Silk Road is more than just a trade route; it is a fascinating and eventful path with its own bitter and sweet historical memories. On May 16, 2017, during a grand ceremony attended by leaders from nearly 30 countries around the world in China, the New Silk Road or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was inaugurated to pave a new way for the greater economic ambition of this Asian power (China). It occurred just a day after an international summit attended by Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presidents of Russia and Turkiye, among others, with European leaders’ presence not particularly prominent. As a result, Afghanistan’s initial step was its agreement to join the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” which was part of the new Silk Road project. The New Silk Road presents a fresh opportunity for countries along this route to expand their trade in Asia, Europe, and Africa more than ever before. “We are in an era where countries are interdependent, and threats persistently exist in the world. No country alone has the capacity and ability to confront global challenges. Unfortunately, due to the fear of connectivity along this transit route and the diminishing of their interests, the West is undertaking numerous disruptions in this regard by creating insecurity in northern Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries along the Silk Road route,” said Xi Jinping, the President of China. India, as one of the leading and loyal allies of America, is among the staunchest critics of the New Silk Road initiative, viewing it as a platform for Chinese hegemony. India has warned that implementing this initiative lacks sufficient transparency and would make economically weak countries dependent on China’s economy, which it sees as an opportunity for Chinese hegemony. Meanwhile, India itself is currently leveraging the Indian Ocean route to the port of Chabahar, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.Afghanistan, due to its unique geographical location, has played a vital role for centuries as a bridge between the centers of civilization and culture, including China, India, Mesopotamia, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Scholars and researchers have not applied the term “crossroads of cultures and civilizations” to this country without reason. Due to its historical and geographical significance, as well as its cultural, commercial, and religious role, Balkh, anciently known as Bactria, has been considered the first political and cultural center of Afghanistan, earning it the title “Pearl of the East” bestowed by historians. Throughout historical epochs, this route has faced numerous ups and downs, and at each stage when the Silk Road has been discussed, Afghanistan has been positioned on a new path of opportunities. According to the Reuters news agency, the governments of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan have reached an agreement to establish a logistics center in western Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, Nooruddin Azizi, has stated that Afghanistan has agreed with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to establish a logistics center in the city of Herat with the aim of transforming this country into a central logistics hub for regional exports, including Russian oil to South Asia. Technical teams from all three countries will prepare the agreement text within two months, and these three countries will begin investing in this center within six months. Before delving into identifying Afghanistan’s opportunities from this route, it is noteworthy that Afghanistan has, on the one hand, supported the Chabahar port project centered around India to circumvent its regional political and antagonistic rival, which conflicts with India and, on the other hand, is vigorously seeking recognition by the United Nations, where America’s vote plays a crucial role as a competitor to China’s economic hegemony in this organization. In such a situation, Afghanistan seeks to benefit from a scheme that could counterbalance China’s hegemony. In this position, Afghanistan must utilize its neutrality and non-conflicting interests. Afghanistan’s leaders and officials have repeatedly promised to transform the country into a regional economic hub, and the people of Afghanistan aspire to become such a hub. Now, if the policy of neutrality is cleverly maintained with strategic insight and joining the New Silk Road initiative can contribute to achieving this goal, there is no doubt that the Afghan government will assist in implementing this scheme, and economic crises will be transformed into economic opportunities. Continued

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.