Before CPEC became the buzzword it is today, the Afghan Ambassador in a meeting with The Pakistan Business Council said that Afghanistan has at least 42 billionaires that neither live in Afghanistan and nor are willing to invest in it. The crux of the meeting was to request and extend an invitation to Pakistan’s business elites to invest in Afghanistan and hence pave the way for Afghani investment to flow back into the country.
Fast forward to years later, Pakistan and Afghanistan are at each other’s throats with daggers drawn. Transit trade is ebbing away along with Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan. Current relations consist of pointing fingers, playing the blame game, and cosying up to the enemy aka India, therefore increasing regional instability and creating opportunities for terrorism spill over.
Hence, it was time for big brother China to step in and dangle CPEC in front of our irascible neighbour at the first trilateral meeting held in Beijing between the three countries. CPEC is expected to herald a new era for Pakistan with investment galore that will apparently boost most sectors of the economy and revolutionise infrastructure. Offering Afghanistan a piece of that pie would not only direct the regional behemoths investments into the country, it will also help Afghan investment follow in.
Afghanistan and Pakistan hail each other as brothers during friendly times, which do little to eradicate the history of mutual distrust. However, through CPEC it is in both countries interest to lay down the proverbial daggers.
Latest news reports indicate that Afghan transit trade has declined to $1.6 billion, arguably because of Chabahar port. However, CPEC can help turn the tide partly through its pet project Gwadar port which will speed up that transit trade process and partly through brining a cessation of hostilities between the two countries.
More importantly, for Afghanistan to be part of CPEC, its security situation has to improve. The consensus reached during the trilateral meeting included a security mechanism to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation.
A safer and more stable Afghanistan means a safer more stable Pakistan. Not only would the situation improve on the anti-terrorism front, it would help address the Afghan refugee problem in Pakistan and decrease the cost of hosting them that has as yet run to billions of dollars.