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Wakhan Corridor Revival: Afghanistan and China reconnect after 100 years

A 50-km trade road from Badakhshan to Chinese border is Taliban-led Afghan government’s first major achievement.

Dependence on CPEC for Pakistan may be reduced, China will have access to Chabahar in Iran directly and reach Gwadar

A new 50-km trade road from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province to the China border has been inaugurated, enabling movement on the route after nearly a century via the Wakhan Corridor.

The project, which was founded on September 17, is being seen as the Taliban government’s first major achievement and a huge success for China, according to a report from Independent Urdu.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Public Works, the construction of this road cost 369 million Afghani Rupees.

According to Afghan officials, the project will provide Afghanistan with a close and alternative route to reach China by road via Wakhan Corridor, while also providing commercial, economic and tourism benefits.

Wakhan Corridor is a narrow strip between Pakistan and Tajikistan, which Pakistan it distinguishes it from other Central Asian countries. Wakhan district is in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, bordering four countries China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

The Wakhan Corridor has been a transport highway for thousands of years. Historians say it was the ancient Silk Road, which ran from India to China. Marco Polo also travelled through the same route, while Buddhism also spread through this route.

After the Treaty of 1893 (which was demarcated in 1895) during the British Raj, the Durand Line was drawn and the District of Wakhan became a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and British-controlled territory. As a result of this division, the Wakhan Highway was closed for movement.

China knows the importance of this route, but the poor situation of law and order, extremist organizations and later the US occupation never allowed this desire to be fulfilled.

Now after the reopening of this highway known as Wakhan Corridor, Independent Urdu spoke to analysts, to know how much progress the opening of this project can make in the field of trade between the two countries and what impact Pakistan can have on it.

Defence analyst Brigadier (retd) Ayaz Khan said, “The Wakhan road should not worry Pakistan, but Islamabad should take advantage of it.”

Talking to Independent Urdu, he said, “Broghal Pass in Chitral district of Pakistan is the place from where Wakhan can be easily reached. From here, Pakistan will maintain contact with Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries.”

At the same time, he said, “With the opening of the Wakhan trade route CPEC The dependency may be less.”

Brigadier (retd) Ayaz Khan added, “The important thing is that what could not be possible in a century, it was made possible by the Taliban government.”

“The Taliban are trying to improve their economic situation. This is why it was finally decided to trade from Wakhan. The Taliban allayed China’s concerns and made the situation favourable for them. ‘

China and Afghanistan are well aware of the importance of the Wakhan Corridor. Both, especially China, wanted easy access to Afghanistan through a safe route.

However, changing governments, unstable conditions and the law and order situation in Afghanistan have neither allowed any government in Afghanistan to take advantage of it nor has China given importance to it for these reasons.

Although there are many routes from China to Afghanistan, such as Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Russia, these routes are also financially expensive, including being the longest and most difficult. In addition, these routes are not considered very beneficial for China as well as not very safe.

It is also worth mentioning here that China built a road to Tajikistan long time ago. After reaching Tajikistan, a railway line was laid from there to Tehran and other adjacent countries, but historian Professor Lutfur Rahman told Independent Urdu that this project from China was to take an alternative route.

According to Prof Lutfur Rahman: “The problem was that this route is more time-consuming because it is the longest, that is, it takes more time, while Wakhan is also the closest, including being a land route.”

According to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chinese media, China has not only appointed an ambassador to Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban government came to power, but has also started a project to build a road from Wakhan district to the Chinese border by renewing the mineral agreement with them, which shows China’s priorities and future policy.

On the other hand, China, which has been investing here for a long time while maintaining close relations with Pakistan, has now found a safe and stable path.

According to various domestic and foreign media reports, the reason for China’s move towards Afghanistan is the political instability in Pakistan and the declining economy of the world and China due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Professor Sarfraz Khan, former director of the Area Study Center of the University of Peshawar, the declining economy is not the only concern for China, but Beijing is making geographical plans keeping in mind the ongoing rivalry and hostility with the United States.

Talking to Independent Urdu, Professor Sarfraz Khan said: “Given the IMF loan and America’s vicious policy, Pakistan can come under pressure from the United States at any time. The incoming government’s priority could be the US instead of China. In such a situation, China needed an alternative way to save CPEC and improve its economy. ‘

If China can easily reach Chabahar port through Afghanistan via Wakhan corridor, then there is no need for it to reach Gwadar port and this is worrying for Pakistan.

He added that China believes that under pressure from the United States, Pakistan can be banned from reaching CPEC. But through the new Wakhan corridor, China will be able to reach Chabahar in Iran directly and can reach Gwadar.

In this way, it is also believed that if China can easily reach Chabahar port through Afghanistan via Wakhan Corridor, then there is no need for it to reach Gwadar port and this is also worrying for Pakistan.

According to Professor Sarfraz, China will benefit immensely from the Wakhan corridor. China has regained access to copper, lithium, coal and other minerals, and an alternative route.

He said, “Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan will be reduced due to this road, which Pakistan will not like.” On the other hand, China will also send goods directly to Afghanistan instead of Pakistan, which will cause financial loss to Pakistan due to the Wakhan corridor.

According to Professor Sarfraz Khan, Pakistan has always called China a ‘close friend’, but China has taken all benefit from this friendship.

Pakistan’s exports to China remained negligible, while Pakistan imports billions of goods from China every year. Now the remaining benefit has also gone out of hand due to the Wakhan corridor resumption. He said although Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan will not be completely eliminated, it has found another way to become commercially strong.

According to Professor Sarfraz Khan, “Pakistan has been a supporter of the Taliban in the past. The Taliban still have homes and close relatives in Pakistan. Despite the Wakhan Corridor revival, the same is the case with the people and they have the closest way to Pakistan for medical treatment and going abroad.”

Nasir Taimoori

Nasir Taimoori is a freelance journalist working for different digital publications. He writes on various social, national and international issues. He also has an interest in translation. If you want to contribute or share anything, feel free to contact us:

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