The Wakhan Corridor is a narrow strip of land that juts out of eastern Afghanistan like a pointing finger, bordered by Tajikistan in the north and Pakistan in the south until it reaches China. The Wakhan Corridor, with the exquisite Pamir Mountains to the north and the Karakoram range to the south, is about 350 km long and 13 kilometres wide.
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The Wakhan Corridor was formed by an 1893 agreement between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, creating the Durand Line. This narrow strip of land acted as a buffer between the Russian Empire and the British Empire in India.
Pakistan today plays an important role in the South Asain geopolitics due to its ever-growing population, varying and unique geo-climate perforated with vast natural resources, weaponized nuclear state and much more.
However, much of its energies and resources are focused on deterrence of Indian aggression and countering Indian influence in every sphere possible. This has restrained Pakistan’s own foreign policy tools ineffective in the sense that Pakistan has failed to assert its own supremacy in the region.
In the changing times, hidden from the world, The Wakhan Corridor can work wonders for Pakistan as a transit economy, generating a multitude of jobs, bringing in foreign revenue and most importantly improving the infrastructure development in the specified regions.
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With its border with China and the hedged in mineral-rich Central Asian regions, Wakhan can become the perfect transit route for the trade of those resources, steered 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 of oil and 60-80 billion cubic meters of gas in its arsenal. Adding to which, Afghanistan itself is among one of the largest gas and copper producers in the global market.
Like the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the unification of all major South-Asian players through development of such strategic corridors could extensively influence the economic, social and political outlook of not only the participating countries but also the global world, as a hub of natural resources for export.
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Thus, the Wakhan region, if properly utilized along with the inauguration of the Wakhjir pass could possibly open a way of progress and prosperity.
The other major reasons for 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 uplift legal exchange and cooperation.
Moreover, the trade routes constructed can create – east-west as well as north-south corridor which would provide a much cheaper and easier trade route for Pakistan to access the mineral-rich Central Asian regions, traversing Afghanistan through the shortest possible route whilst allowing Tajikistan to access Pakistan’s seaports in Karachi and Gwadar. This will also let Pakistan to join the China-Eurasian economic corridor, thus transforming the economic outlook of the entire region.
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With the inauguration of Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan, Pakistan took a step towards peace and reconciliation. Moreover, Pakistan should primarily focus on improving bilateral trade relations with its neighbouring countries, generate employment and revenue to attract investors, 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 enhance its international position.
Penned By Wasif Farrukh. Edited By: Syed Shafiq-Ul-Haq