By Mathias Samuel
Central Asian countries particularly Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are already facing brunt of COVID-19 related international economic meltdown due to dependence of Central Asian economies over immigrant dollars and remittances. Majority of Central Asian workers are either back to home or are already jobless in foreign countries.
Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and gulf countries are already planning their Post-Coronavirus economic strategies and dependence upon foreign workforce would become very limited in world of future which would come out from COVID-19 crises.
Uzbekistan has third strongest economy in Central Asia after oil-rich Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Cotton export and tourism are two major industries those have been injecting resources in its economy. Now no tourism insight for at least next two years and world exports halt situation are serious burdens on this beautiful central Asian country. While Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are too fragile to sustain without remittances.
Now weaker Central Asian economies are looking towards China and reaching out huge markets of South Asia. However, war ridden Afghanistan is there to hamper any possibility of Central Asian states to reach South Asian markets and China is waiting for a stable Afghanistan for its future projects on Afghan-Central Asian borders.
China is the biggest investor in Afghanistan and is working tirelessly for peace in a land it has invested in infrastructure and mineral sector and planned to export products (minerals etc) through Central Asian states to mainland via railways and road network. Afghan peace is now must for any such positive developments for Central Asian states.
Recently, China became the first country to send testing kits, protective gears and medical aid to Afghanistan to fight COVID-19 as number of affected people in Afghanistan is rapidly increasing.
China has been most active supporters of peace in Afghanistan because Afghanistan and Pakistan are main land routes which can make Chinese vision of Belt and Road a great success in this region. This can be one of the reason that China has actively engaged with Afghan Government and other political leaders apart for convincing Taliban for peace.
On the other hand, Peace spoilers are continuously trying to spoil Chinese efforts through disruptions in the peace process. However, the Afghans fully understand who stands for peace and prosperity of their nation and who opposes them.
Central Asian regional experts believe that China wishes to become biggest contributors to the Afghan rehabilitation in post Extra Regional Forces exit phase and entire Afghan leadership understands that.
Chinese strength and development model through engagement and connectivity will work best for Afghanistan and Central Asia. Chinese development model suits best for the region being inclusive and people friendly. Afghanistan can also benefit hugely from existing infrastructure in neighbouring Central Asia at one side and Pakistan on the other side where Chinese firms have already invested.
Peace in Afghanistan is prerequisite for Central Asian countries and China because China has made investments in Central Asian countries and thinking for more while it is building flagship CPEC project in Pakistan as part of Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Therefore, peace in Afghanistan has been a Pakistani, Central Asian and Chinese dream.
Peace in Afghanistan is considered prelude to peace in Afghanistan which in turn will open execution and operationalization of several Chinese projects in the region.
CPEC has enormous vertical and horizontal connectivity potential offering great opportunities for Afghanistan. Gwadar port development and linked road infrastructure offers shortest, surest and best suited linkage to Afghanistan and Central Asian states. However, to benefit from these opportunities Afghans must listen to the demand of the time and opt for the peace and collective benefit option.
Recent events in Afghanistan nevertheless indicate that the spoilers of peace are still active and influential. Initial zeal and expectations of the Afghans from the US-Taliban peace deal has fizzled a bit after the delay in prisoner exchange and expected intra afghan talks. Political crisis in Afghanistan has weakened existing Afghan Governance and its reputation. There are two Presidents working at the same time and Kabul is now the most chaotic capital in the world.
Common Afghan views developments with despair as political opponents carelessly play with the peace deal related steps only to undermine life and security of the people.
Writer of this article Mathias Samuel is student of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.