The Wakhan Corridor Pakistan’s Hidden Gem

The Wakhan Corridor

Pakistan’s Hidden Gem

Wasif Farrukh

The narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan is known as the Wakhan Corridor. This strip is about 350km (220 mi) long and 13-65 km (8.1-40.4 mi) wide. The Wakhan Corridor was part of the ancient Silk Road — the oldest transit route from China to Central Asia. Pakistan desires to reach out to Central Asia for trade and energy cooperation in order to solve its power crisis which is crucial to the economic development of the country. Since the need of trade and communication from both Pakistan and Tajikistan increased, building a road across Wakhan corridor to connect Pakistan with Tajikistan seems a forward-looking proposal.

The Wakhan Corridor is a region which if properly developed and administered by mutual cooperation between its players can work wonders for Pakistan as a transit economy, generating multitude of jobs, bringing in foreign revenue and, most importantly, improving the infrastructure development in the specified regions.

The Durand Line agreement of 1893 between Sir Motmir Durand and Charles Napier, marked the boundary between British India and Afghanistan, leaving a narrow strip of land ruled by Afghanistan as a buffer between the two empires, which became known as the Wakhan Corridor. Inhabited by almost 12000 people, the geography of the region is mostly characterized by rugged and steep mountains, with a semi-arid climate, cut off from all the developments and events of the modern world due to the lack of technology and infrastructure

So how such a barren, inhospitable and rugged region is of any use to Pakistan or its neighbours? The answer lies in geo-strategic analysis of this location. With its border with China and the landlocked, mineral rich Central Asian regions, Wakhan can act as the perfect transit route for the trade of those resources, manoeuvring through Pakistan and China. According to recent statistics CAR’s and Azerbaijan possess 7.5 trillion cubic meters of gas, Kazakhstan holds 22 million barrels of oil while Turkmenistan alone holds 37 billion barrels of oil and 60-80 billion cubic meters of gas. Afghanistan itself is among one of the largest gas and copper producers in the global market.

The unification of all major South-Asian players through development of such strategic corridors could massively influence the economic, social and political outlook of not only the participating players but also of the global world, as a multitude of natural resources would now be imported and exported through one major hub.

Therefore, the Wakhan region, if properly utilized along with the opening of the Wakhjir Pass could possibly open an era of progress and prosperity.

The foremost advantage of connecting the bordering countries and facilitating economic integration through better infrastructure would lead to more stability and security in the region. Better customs controls and the deployment of border guards, as well as control of the illegal cross-border trafficking, would encourage legal exchange and cooperation. Indirectly, the integration of the border areas would strengthen local development and lead to an increase in the economic well-being of the local population, which would lead to more secure and stabilized border regions.

Secondly, the trade routes constructed through Wakhan ,if connected to CPEC and the Karakorum Highway, would provide a much cheaper and easier trade route for Pakistan to access the mineral-rich Central Asia, traversing Afghanistan through the shortest possible route whilst allowing Tajikistan to access Pakistan’s seaports in Karachi and Gwadar, thus creating not only a north-south corridor but also an east- west corridor, and it will be the least costly trade route for China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, should the four countries agree to transform this land buffer into a bridge between them.

Different strategies could be implemented to make this area functional. Pakistan needs to focus on improving trade relations with China, generate employment and revenue to attract investors and multi-nationals, bring an end to widespread corruption and tax-evasion and lastly stabilize its political system by strengthening its judiciary to promote a positive image to uplift its international position.



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