Academic journal article The Journal of Central Asian Studies

Regional Economic Cooperation: New Silk Route Initiative and Afghanistan

Academic journal article The Journal of Central Asian Studies

Regional Economic Cooperation: New Silk Route Initiative and Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Several initiatives were taken to translate the aforesaid theoretical perspectives of regional economic cooperation into practice for South and Central Asia including Afghanistan. In essence, these were meant to transform Afghanistan into a "hub" or "roundabout" in Eurasia and strengthen the North-South axis connecting South Asia with the rest of Eurasia.1 One of the initiatives is the "New Silk Road Initiative" (NSRI) unfolded by the United States on the sidelines of UN General Council meeting in 2011. It was signed by 28 countries except China and Iran, and was supported by the Asian Development Bank in financial terms and the "Northern Distribution Network" (NDN), which transferred non-lethal NATO supplies to Afghanistan, in security terms.2

In fact, its idea was long back discussed in the annual meeting of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECCA) held in Afghanistan in 20 053 at the initiative of United Kingdom, the then G-8 chair.4 It was attended by the delegates from 11 countries, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UAE and G-8, World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The meeting underscored the need of promoting specific forms of regional economic cooperation in the areas of energy, trade, investment and transportation. Special focus was laid on the hydropower generation, water sharing, energy transportation, narcotic trade control and favourable business climate in the region.5

The second RECCA was hosted by India in Delhi in November 2006 to further the resolutions adopted at the Kabul conference.6 Representatives of countries from Canada, Finland, (EU Presidency), France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UAE, UK, US and Uzbekistan and the organizations like Asian Development Bank (ADB), Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), European Commission (EC), European Council (EC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations (UN) and World Bank participated in the event. It resolved to promote general trade, transportation, investment, energy exchange, per se; through the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-PakistanIndia (TAPI) gas pipeline etc.7 Special focus was laid on the renewal of energy and agriculture. Follow up meetings with Afghanistan's Investment Support Agency (AISA) resolved as under: the Creation of a centre for Regional Cooperation at Kabul; development of PublicPrivate Partnership as key aspect of regional development; integration of the existing regional groupings into a larger whole; Afghanistan's shift from a regional specific approach to capacity development; and the identification of the next theme of the RECCA conference on mining, water, heath, labour, human resource development and trade and transit. The Delhi Declaration also resolved that:8

* Regional Countries will develop confidence building measures to remove obstacles to overland and inter-state trade and transit;

* Win-win projects, notably in the fields of energy, transport, trade, agriculture and mining, shall be collective organized by the participant countries;

* Information shall be shared on key issues to avoid duplication of efforts;

* ADB will undertake a study on regional integration strategies and will share key findings at the next conference;

* Regional countries will work towards aviation liberalization for greater regional connectivity;

* Work on TAPI gas pipeline will be speeded up to realize a technically and commercially viable project;

* Regional linkages shall be established for human resource training and development and institutional growth.

The third RECCA conference scheduled in Pakistan in 20079 was actually held in Islamabad in May 2009. …

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