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Transregional Connectivity Projects Debated at Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—As the organizer and host of the July 26-27 conference in Tashkent, entitled “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development,” the government of Uzbekistan issued a summary report on some of the major points of discussion which took place there, with an important focus on priority infrastructure projects to enhance regional connectivity.

Published July 27 by The Diplomat, the report emphasizes participants’ understanding that lasting peace will only be achieved through stabilization and recovery of Afghanistan’s economy. It is therefore necessary, it states, “to promote the integration of Afghanistan into interregional economic processes, to promote the implementation of socially significant and infrastructure projects, including the formation of transregional transport, energy and other corridors.”

Among the projects were those put forward by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to advance the construction of the trans-Afghanistan railroad as a means of connecting South Asia via Afghanistan. Other projects include laying the (Uzbekistan to Afghanistan) Surkhan-Pul-i-Khumri power transmission line, the creation of the Termez, Uzbekistan, cargo transport and logistics hub, as well as the transformation of the training center in Termez into an educational cluster for training Afghan personnel.

According to The Diplomat, Uzbekistan is the major promoter of the 573 km Trans-Afghan railroad. First proposed in December 2018, it would extend the Afghan rail network from Mazar-e-Sharif—a regional hub in northern Afghanistan, close to both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan—to Kabul and then to Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where the railway would cross the border with Pakistan at Torkham and run into Pakistan via Peshawar. Goods will then be offloaded to connect with the Pakistan rail system and from there travel down to the seaports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Qasim.

The railroad would have an estimated capacity of 20 million tons of cargo per annum, and once operational, would cut down travel time from 35 days to 3-5 days from Uzbekistan to Pakistan, The Diplomat reports. There are many challenges to be overcome in building the project, including very difficult geography, security issues, different rail gauges, and not least of which is the $4.8 billion in financing.

Another important project is the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), a $1.2 billion project that would bring 1,300 MW of seasonal power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because of their hydroelectric power capacity, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have excess electricity to sell. Although the project was put on hold when the Taliban took power, construction has now been resumed with an estimated completion date of 2024. It is financed by a consortium of international financial organizations.


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Visit to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Has Development Focus

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi continued on his Central Asian diplomatic tour, which brought him to high level meetings in Uzbekistan July 28-29, including the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and then to Kyrgyzstan on July 30, and Tajikistan July 31-Aug. 1, all focused on the growth of both the nations, and Central Asia as a whole.

In Kyrgyzstan, Wang met with Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev in the town of Cholpon-Ata. The Chinese Foreign Ministry readout reported that Wang said “the Chinese side has felt the great importance and ardent expectations by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan [CKU] railway project, and will jointly advance this important project at a faster pace…. The Chinese side is ready to import more green and quality livestock products from Kyrgyzstan.” Wang said that China and Kyrgyzstan are ready to increase the frequency of direct flights. Kulubaev said he looks forward to accelerating the CKU railway and welcomed Chinese experts’ arrival in Kyrgyzstan to “carry out the survey work.” His country is “ready to work with China to speed up the implementation of key projects such as the new North-South Highway” and the renovation of the municipal roads of Bishkek, the nation’s capital.

Kulubaev attached special importance to China’s pledge to construct in his nation the Luban Workshop, a program China has developed in several nations, in which Chinese engineers and professionals educate host country’s students and labor force in such subjects as industrial robots, cloud computing, high-speed train maintenance, and vocational training.

On July 31, Wang set foot in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he met with President Emomali Rahmon, who noted on his website that China is one of the major trading partners of Tajikistan and its largest investor. Bilateral trade between Tajikistan and China during the first six months of 2022 increased by 82%, compared to the same period last year, and accounted for one-fifth of Tajikistan’s foreign trade.

Some of the groundwork for this trip was worked out at the third China + Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on June 12. The C-5 include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; at the ministerial, Wang outlined a 10-point program, stemming from the Belt and Road, for the region’s development. It is significant that for the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Russia helped to found in 2014, both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are full-time members, and Uzbekistan is an observer.

It is not accidental that both the China and Russian headed organizations seek the agricultural and industrial development of landlocked Central Asia, including Afghanistan, over the Anglo-American looting eyes.


Mr. Jackson
@mrjackson