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Afghanistan -Turkmenistan Tango

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(Last Updated On: July 11, 2017)

 Afghanistan is in the process of limiting Pakistan’s veto options on transportation of goods and looking at other routes being a landlocked country.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani visited Turkmenistan on July 3 upon invitation by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Oguzkhan Palace complex in Turkmenistan hosted the high-level talks.

Various issues from security and counter-terrorism, economy and trade, energy, education and transportation infrastructure were discussed. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP)electricity project, and Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) electricity transit project were discussed.

Transportation infrastructure cooperation is a way forward to make Afghanistan less dependent on Pakistan, who routinely closes checkpoints along the Durand line. President Ghani the next day told the visiting U.S. senate delegation that  Afghanistan has diversified trade and transit links and is no longer dependent on Pakistan.

These are the main routes of transit to  Afghanistan:

  1. Hairtan->Mazar e Sharif
  2. Mersin, Turkey-> Baku, Azerbaijan -> via ferry on Caspian Sea->Türkmenbaşy->Aqina->Sheberghan ->Mazar e Sharif
  3. Mersin, Turkey-> Baku, Azerbaijan -> via ferry on Caspian Sea->Türkmenbaşy-> Mary, Turkmenistan ->Torghundi->Herat-> Lashkargah ->Kandahar->Ghazni->Kabul
  4. Bandar Abbas ->Islam Qala->Herat-> Lashkargah ->Kandahar->Ghazni->Kabul
  5. Karachi->Quetta->Kandahar
  6. Karachi->Jalalabad->Kabul

Of these, the first route connects to China, the 2nd and 3rd to Europe, the 4th to Iran and the last two to Pakistan. As of now, the last two routes via Pakistan carry the most freight. When the Torkham gate was closed by Pakistan for an indefinite period following a skirmish between the respective armed forces, the other routes effectively neutralised any economic effect on Afghanistan.

Reconstruction and repairing of the Serhedabad (Azerbaijan)– Turghandi (Afghanistan) railroad and also expanding Aqina railroad were on the agenda of today’s meeting. The Asian transnational railway – Atamyrat-Ymamnzar-Akina was quoted as an example of the  developing cooperation in the transport sphere between the two nations. In view of the  transit and transportation potentials of the both countries, the presidents emphasized on Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey trade and transit corridor and Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan railway. The trade and transit corridor is also known as the Lapis Lazuli corridor and the nations are due to sign an agreement for transporting goods to European markets. Turkmenistan itself serves as the fourth largest export market for Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has already diversified its trade and is no more heavily dependent on Pakistan.  Trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan has declined from $3 billion a couple years ago to just $500 million in early 2017. That  indicates a drop of more than an 80 percent in commerce between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the other hand, Afghan-Iran trade volume has increased 25 percent, from $1.5 billion to $2 billion, and now accounts for a quarter of Afghanistan’s total annual trade. The construction of railroad between Iran and Afghanistan and the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan are some factors behind the growth of Afghanistan – Iran trade. Trade with Europe and central Asia accounted for 24% of imports and exports stood at 11.6%.

Cooperation in oil & gas, chemical industry, textile, carpet weaving industry, farming and other sectors was discussed. An MoUs signed between the two nations is for cooperation In the carpet industry. It is worth noting that carpets are among the biggest exports from Afghanistan. Till now most carpets were produced to a pre-final stage and then exported to Pakistan or Iran. This was due to lack of resources like machinery for cutting and edging.

I spoke to the spokesperson of Afghan Chamber Of Commerce & Industries (ACCI)  Siamuden Pasarly, who told me, “Till 2013-14, roughly around 80% of the carpets were exported to Pakistan, Iran & final processing done there. Now have our own factories. Industrial parks are under construction in PPP model. At present, 30% of the carpet go to Pakistan and Iran for final processing. We plan to absorb it and sell them under Afghan branding to the west.”

Implemented properly, the agreements at Turkmenistan would lead both to economic prosperity and reduced economic dependency on Pakistan for Afghanistan. It’s still a long way for land-locked Afghanistan to be no longer dependent on Pakistan but it’s a welcome start.

By Aveek Sen – Aveek Sen is an independent journalist working on cyber security and the geopolitics of India’s neighbourhood, focusing on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh. He tweets at @aveeksen

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* Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author, and it do  not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ariana News.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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