THE CONTEXT: The U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity.
- The parties consider long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan critical to regional connectivity and agree that peace and regional connectivity are mutually reinforcing,
- Recognising the historic opportunity to open flourishing interregional trade routes, they intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links, and strengthen business-to-business ties,
- They agreed to meet in the coming months to determine the modalities of this cooperation with mutual consensus.
- Afghanistan’s strategic location has for a long time been touted as a competitive advantage for the country.
- Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast.
- Located at the heart of the historic Silk Road, Afghanistan was long the crossroads of commerce between Asian countries connecting them to Europe, and enhancing religious, cultural, and commercial contacts.
- The formation of the new quad group is important amid China’s desire to extend its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) to Afghanistan.
- The BRI, a multi-billion dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013, aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
- By virtue of its location, Afghanistan can provide China with a base to spread its influence across the world.
- Since the announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. forces by August 31, violence has been rising and efforts to broker a peace settlement between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban have slowed.