“Afghanistan’s political future is linked to its economic future – and in fact to the future of the entire region,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the New Silk Road Ministerial Meeting in late September. “That is a lesson we have learned over and over again, all over the world – lasting stability and security go hand in hand with economic opportunity.”
For centuries, Afghanistan had been an important part of the Silk Road, a network of ancient trade routes that connected Asia with the Mediterranean and Europe, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Taking its cue from history is the New Silk Road Initiative, a plan that envisions building a web of economic and transit connections across South and Central Asia with a central hub in Afghanistan that would help the transitioning country to build a sustainable economy, in turn ensuring a more prosperous future for the region as a whole.
“The basis for the ‘New Silk Road’ vision is that if Afghanistan is firmly embedded in the economic life of the region, it will be better able to attract new investment, benefit from its resource potential, and provide increasing economic opportunity and hope for its people,” said Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats. “Indeed ... the New Silk Road Initiative can provide a critical economic boost for all of Afghanistan’s neighbors.”
Afghanistan has a lot to offer the world markets, whether it be agricultural products, light manufacturing goods such as rugs and textiles, or Afghanistan’s vast raw mineral wealth. But for the “New Silk Road” to realize its potential, bureaucratic barriers and other impediments to the free flow of goods and people must be removed, and corruption reduced by increasing transparency and predictability in business operations.
As well, the web of connections that will be a “New Silk Road” must be created and facilitated by Afghanistan and its neighbors.
“The people of Afghanistan—and of the entire region— have enormous talent,” said Under Secretary Hormats. “The re-integration of Afghanistan into this region—and into the global economy—can be of tremendous benefit—not just to the Afghanis themselves, and not just to its neighbors, but to the global community.