Afghanistan opens first ever train route

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by SpArK, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. SpArK

    SpArK SORCERER Senior Member

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    Afghanistan opens first ever train route



    Afghanistan has opened its first ever major railway route, paving the way for an alternative supply route for Nato troops after the crippling breakdown of relations with Pakistan.





    21 Dec 2011




    In a rare piece of good news for the war-ravaged country, a train chugged into the newly built station in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for the first time on Wednesday after its inaugural 47-mile journey from the border with Uzbekistan.


    Afghanistan has never had a functioning rail network. The £105 million project funded by the Asian Development Bank comes over a century after her ruler deliberately refused to join the rail age fearing any track would be used by invading foreign troops.


    The country's industrial development was also victim of manoeuvres of the 19th century Great Game rivalry between Russia and Britain. Soviet occupiers abandoned a few rail projects in the 1980s, and later years of bitter civil war made such construction impossible.


    The new railway comes after Pakistan closed off the supply route to Nato troops last month following an air strike on an army outpost killed 24 soldiers on Nov 26.


    "It's actually a big deal. It's very significant both practically and symbolically," said Fred Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.


    A US military spokesman says the new railway will be key to supplying American troops – and possibly also withdrawing non-lethal cargo during the troop drawdown set to begin next year.
    "We do not have numbers yet, (but) we anticipate that the rail line will be able to speed the transit of cargo into Afghanistan and out of it," said Cmdr. Bill Speaks of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.




    The Uzbekistan link is part of a wider ambitious plan to connect Afghanistan to its neighbours by rail.




    Afghan officials are already planning to expand its infant railroad with another proposed line to Turkmenistan to the northwest.




    Last month India unveiled plans to build what could be the world's most dangerous railroad from Afghanistan's mineral-rich heartland to an Iranian port on the Arabian Sea in attempt to open a new trade route and reduce Kabul's dependence on Pakistan.


    Nearly half of all cargo bound for Nato-led forces had run through Pakistan. Roughly 140,000 foreign troops, including about 97,000 Americans, rely on supplies from outside Afghanistan for the decade-long war effort.




    Afghanistan opens first ever train route - Telegraph
     
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  3. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    great move. but its security? who will be guarding it?

    i think if opened for public and business this will draw more people towards state and taliban anti-development policy will back fire on it
     
  4. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    This train route is as safe as it can get in Afghanistan, because it is in the North, which is relatively peaceful.

    Now, when a train can be operated safely in the Southern regions - say from Kandahar to Kabul - that is the day Afghanistan can really be considered to be at peace!
     
  5. Payeng

    Payeng Daku Mongol Singh

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    Rail routes are crucial means for the development of a region, kudos.
     
  6. SpArK

    SpArK SORCERER Senior Member

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    Afghan railway: First train runs on new line in north




    [​IMG]




    A train has run for the first time on Afghanistan's only major railway, between the Uzbek border and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.


    The seven-carriage train pulled into a new station in the city after travelling the 75-km (47-mile) route without any cargo.


    The line was completed last year at a cost of $165 million (£105m).


    The authorities hope to open up new trade routes and link Afghanistan to its neighbours' rail networks.


    The new line could also become a key supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan and help take military equipment out when the international troops withdraw, starting in 2012.



    The US has been shifting its supply lines into the north and away from the volatile route from Pakistan.


    The first journey on Wednesday was intended to test the track and signals, before the formal opening of the project at which President Hamid Karzai is expected to attend.


    "This is a matter of pride for us and a very important issue for Afghanistan," said Deputy Public Works Minister Noor Gul Mangal, who was there to watch the train arrive in Mazar-e-Sharif.


    He said the government planned to build another line into Turkmenistan, to the north-west.
     
  7. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    as we know that trains are cheaper than land route, the subsequent increase in transportation cost because of pakistani ban on nato supplies can be tamed a bit by this train
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The raillink will open up the North and it will become richer than the South and that will be another bone of contention.
     
  9. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    This is bad news! For Pakistan. :laugh:
     
  10. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    south is already under taliban control. american presence there is symbolic and that area is dangerous. thats why the raillink by India from afghan territory in south to iran is termed a dangerous investment
     
  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Afghanistan in Chinese Strategy Toward South and Central Asia

    The resurgence of great powers' interests in Central Asia in recent years is reminiscent of the “Great Game” that ensued in the region in the 19th century between Czarist Russia and Imperial Great Britain. Afghanistan’s geographic location has made it a much coveted strategic pivot in the current Great Game. Notwithstanding the similarities between the two periods, some stark differences stand out prominently: one, there are now significantly more stakeholders in Afghanistan’s security (United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, India and China); two, while the first Great Game was precipitated primarily by Russia’s quest for access to the warm waters and the creation of a buffer between British India and Czarist Russia, the stakes now include oil, hydropower sources, strategic metals, pipelines, transit routes and access to markets. These significantly higher stakes have led to Central Asia assuming military, geo-political, geo-economic and geo-strategic significance for two major blocs—one led by the United States (NATO) and the other by China (Shanghai Cooperation Organization)—vying for influence in the region with seemingly dissimilar interests. “China needs them, Russia wants to control their distribution, and Western powers want to ensure they are not monopolized by Moscow or Beijing” (USA Today, December 15, 2007).



    Afghanistan’s strategic location between Central and South Asia is of immense geo-strategic significance for the landlocked countries of Central Asia and its prosperity is inextricably linked to the security situation in Central and South Asia. Immense energy resources and strategic location on China’s western frontier have led to Central Asia being referred to as China’s Dingwei (Lebensraum) [1].



    China’s Interests in Afghanistan



    The present regional order prevailing in Afghanistan and Central Asia is similar in some ways to what transpired in Europe after the end of the Second World War. The United States and Western European powers, under the NATO umbrella, desire strengthening their presence in the region to counter the growing power and regional influence of both China and Russia while China, like the erstwhile Soviet Union, is aspiring to extend its security perimeter westward by developing close links with the countries in the region and ensuring unhindered access to the energy resources therein.



    Some Indian analysts are convinced that China is engaged in a “creeping encirclement” of their country [2]. They see Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran forming the right or western pincer of this move, Bangladesh and Burma (also known as Myanmar) making up the left or eastern pincer with Sri Lanka acting as the southern anchor and completing the encirclement (refer to Figure-1 in PDF). India’s recent overtures toward Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia and the development of close ties with these countries appear to be aimed at weakening China’s right pincer and denying Pakistan a secure western frontier (The Hindu, November 7, 2001). Afghanistan figures prominently, therefore, in Chinese and Indian foreign policies. In fact, the decision to establish the first ever Indian military outpost on foreign soil at the Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan, just 2 kilometers from the Tajik–Afghan border, could well be perceived as an attempt to reduce the impact of the Chinese encirclement (Indian Express, February 25, 2007). According to a Chinese military journal, India’s forays into Afghanistan and the Central Asian arena are “designed to achieve four objectives: contain Pakistan; enhance energy security; combat terrorism; and pin down China’s development” [3]. As in the past, Afghanistan has once again emerged as the “strategic knot” for the region’s security.



    Afghanistan’s significance for China is also due to the latter’s imperative of ensuring Pakistan’s security. Pakistan, which is China’s foremost ally in South Asia and has been instrumental in China’s emergence on the global scene, has been constrained by its lack of geographic depth. Often referred to as Pakistan’s lack of strategic depth, this has been touted as a major weakness in Pakistan’s military confrontation with India. Pakistan’s military considers that a friendly Afghanistan bestows additional strategic depth to the country—this was one of the factors that led to Pakistan supporting the emergence of a “friendly” Taliban regime in Kabul. An adversarial regime in Afghanistan is perceived to be denuding Pakistan of this strategic depth’ and could also impinge on Pakistan’s security by making it contend with two simultaneous threats. Since ensuring Pakistan’s security is an imperative for China, it would view any Indian ingress into the country with wariness, concern and caution.



    China, like Czarist Russia, yearns for access to the Indian Ocean and the plan to build a major port in Gwadar on Pakistan’s Mekran Coast is a step in this direction (China Brief, February 28, 2005). This port would enable China to project its military presence in proximity of the strategic global petroleum shipping routes as well as the oil-rich Middle East. The economic feasibility of Gwadar as a shipping hub would be significantly enhanced were it to be linked to Central Asia and China by road and rail links. Once again, since all such transportation links between Gwadar and Central Asia have to traverse through Afghanistan, the focal importance of the latter cannot be understated. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Afghanistan’s strategic location could make the country an important pipeline transit route” [4].



    The vast expanse of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, which is inhabited by the Uyghur Muslim minority, poses a security predicament for China. Since the Uyghurs have strong religious and ethnic traditional links with the natives of Afghanistan and the neighboring Central Asian Republics (CARs), China is very keen that the militant Islamic ideology of extremist elements such as the Taliban be prevented from spilling over into Xinjiang (China Brief, April 14). Additionally, the presence of sizeable Western military forces in Afghanistan is also a source of major concern for China [5]. China was a major actor in the Afghan civil war and a key supplier of small arms to the insurgents in the combined U.S.-Pakistan effort to force a Soviet withdrawal from the country. “Current Chinese interest in Afghanistan, given its continuing civil war and virtual statelessness, is low and relations are weak” [6]. This interest, however, would certainly grow once the situation stabilizes since China’s security imperatives directly translate into its interest in a stable and moderate Afghanistan that is also free of Western military presence. In line with its earlier practices, China is exhibiting a policy of patience toward Afghanistan and simultaneously making imperceptible inroads into the country through growing economic relations and investment. These overtures would place China in an influential position in Afghanistan once the Western militaries eventually withdraw from the country. In an indicator of China’s growing involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, during his visit last month to China, indicated a desire for China, Russia and the SCO to play a more positive role in bringing stability to Afghanistan, but without getting into a conflict with the United States and NATO (AFP, April 14).



    China’s booming demand for energy and mineral resources, plus its growing dependence on imported petroleum, has made Beijing increasingly concerned with ensuring supplies of reserves and the uninterrupted flow of oil at reasonable prices [7]. The resource-rich CARs, having estimated oil and gas reserves of 23 billion tons of oil and 3,000 billion cubic meters of gas respectively [8], have great geo-economic significance for China as a source of fossil fuel. While Afghanistan has no proven fuel deposits, it nevertheless offers the easiest transportation route for the exploitation of the energy resources of the CARs and is predicted to have substantial non-fuel mineral resources essential for China’s industrialization [9]. This geo-economic significance of Afghanistan for China should not be understated considering the latter’s serious interest in the Caspian Sea hydrocarbon resources and the growing Sino-Afghan trade which reached $317 million in 2005-06. China has also evinced an interest in a pipeline to the Arabian Sea, with a view to importing gas and oil by supertankers from Gwadar, but it should be noted that the Gwadar port project is still severely debilitated by the absence of links to access the hinterland from the port [10]. As another option, China is considering transporting its energy shipments from Central Asia and the Middle East via tanker to Gwadar and then by pipe or truck to western China through the Karakoram Highway (KKH) [11].



    Pakistan as a Trade and Energy Corridor for China

    The second option falls in line with what the Pakistani leadership has been harping upon for the past few years—their vision of exploiting Pakistan’s geography as a Trade and Energy Corridor (TEC) for China and other neighboring countries including India. Just last month, President Musharraf told a student audience at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, “Pakistan is very much in favor of a pipeline between the Gulf and China through Pakistan and I have been speaking with your leadership about this. I am very sure in the future—it will happen” (The Associated Press, April 14).

    President Musharraf further elaborated that he envisioned improved road linkages between the two countries as well as a rail link, a fiber optic communications link and energy pipelines. He also suggested the possibility of extending the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline to China (Daily Dawn, April 15). Interestingly, on the same date that President Musharraf made this speech, the Indian government announced the visit of its petroleum minister to Islamabad to negotiate the possible extension of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline to India and renaming it as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline (Rediff.com, April 14).



    Although senior Pakistani leaders have repeatedly alluded to the proposal for the construction of an oil and gas pipeline connecting Pakistan and China, there has been no official response or statement yet on this suggestion from the Chinese leadership. Despite the evident potential of the TEC that Pakistan has to offer to China, the latter has, at the declaratory level, shown only marginal interest in the idea till very recently when China has started evincing a strong interest (Steelguru.com, May 5).

    Notwithstanding China’s reticent and non-committal position on this specific proposal, it is continuing support and participation in the major infrastructure projects in Pakistan that could be construed to be components of the TEC. China’s commitment to the construction of Phase II of Gwadar port, the new international airport at Gwadar, the upgrading of the KKH and interest in investing in an oil refinery and storage facilities are examples that substantiate the Chinese interest [12]. This involvement of China in major infrastructure development in Pakistan leads to the assumption that while there is no categorical commitment on the TEC by China, it can be said with some confidence that it will support Pakistan’s initiative, while maintaining a low profile, because of political and strategic considerations. For ease of analysis, the proposed TEC could be split into two distinct sectors for development: a Trade Corridor and an Energy Corridor.



    The Trade Corridor’s starting point is the existing Karakoram Highway. A decision to upgrade the 335 kilometer KKH was taken during President Musharraf’s visit to China in February 2006. The envisaged upgrade would widen the KKH from 10 to 30 meters, make it suitable for long vehicles and allow it to remain functional the entire year (The Hindu, July 11, 2006). In parallel with the KKH upgrade, China is also involved in the construction of a new rail line linking Gwadar to the main Iran-Pakistan rail line and is working with Pakistan to expedite customs over the Sino-Pakistani highway with a view to creating a stronger regional trade system. On the Chinese side, a new extension of the Xinjiang railway up to Kashgar (about 500 kilometers via the KKH from the Sino-Pakistani border) has been completed while Pakistan has reciprocated by building a dry port at Sust on the KKH, which was inaugurated by President Musharraf on July 4, 2006 [13]. In another related development, Iran has offered Pakistan land access through its territory to Central Asia and Afghanistan for trade in return for similar access to China through the KKH [14].



    A railway line along the KKH is also being considered as an integral part of the TEC Project. This would be used not only for trade purposes but also to transport energy, in case a pipeline is not a viable option. This rail track will be linked to Gwadar, where oil-refining and storage facilities are planned to be constructed by the Chinese. Pakistan has shortlisted a Chinese and a European firm to conduct the feasibility study for this 1,000 kilometer rail-track. In Pakistan, the 750 kilometer track starts from Havelian and passes through the Karakoram mountains up to the Pak–China border at Khunjerab with the second part, consisting of a 250 kilometer track being constructed inside the Chinese province of Xinjiang (The Nation, November 16, 2006). Experts estimate that this project could take 10 years to complete and cost around $5 billion [15].



    While the envisaged Trade Corridor comprising of road and rail links could also be utilized for the transportation of oil and gas, a more efficient means of transporting these commodities would be through pipelines. These would make up the Energy Corridor component of the TEC. In an address in Islamabad on May 23, 2006, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said, “Pakistan and China are considering a feasibility study for an oil pipeline from Gwadar port to western China to transport China’s oil imports from the Gulf. An oil pipeline from Gwadar to western China would greatly reduce the time and distance for oil transport from the Gulf to China. A major oil refinery at Gwadar would further facilitate China’s oil imports” (Daily Times, May 24, 2006).

    The Pakistani government presented a blueprint of the 3,300 kilometer Karakoram oil pipeline during the first meeting of the Sino-Pak Energy Forum held at Islamabad from April 25-27, 2006. This proposal entails the construction of a 30-inch diameter pipeline from Gwadar till the Khunjerab Pass capable of handling 12 million tons of oil per year with an estimated construction cost of between $4.5 and 5 billion [16].



    China has also recently shown interest in reviving the dormant UNOCAL pipeline project to pump natural gas from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This could also then be extended to China just like the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline. Additionally, China’s Ex-Im Bank is financing an oil pipeline from Port Qasim in Pakistan’s south to the country’s north. This pipeline would cater for 75 percent of Pakistan’s future oil needs and it has been under construction by China’s Petroleum Engineering and Construction Company since June 2006 [17].



    Conclusion



    China’s strategic interests in Afghanistan are multi-dimensional, but in its view any substantial advancement in Sino-Afghan ties is contingent upon stability returning to this war-ravaged country and foreign forces withdrawing from its soil. Energy-hungry China is also keen on capitalizing on the convenience that Afghanistan and Pakistan offer for the exploitation of energy resources of Central Asia and the Middle East, and is working in this direction. As regards the utilization of Pakistan as a TEC, it appears that while the Trade Corridor could be expected to be established in the near future, the activation of an Energy Corridor would take an appreciable amount of time and could only be considered a long-term possibility because of the enormous costs involved. For China, therefore, the stability of Afghanistan emerges as a priority while the prospects of Pakistan becoming a trade corridor are more promising than it becoming an energy corridor in the short and medium terms. Since the chances of China using Pakistan as an energy corridor are remote in the short term, it can be concluded that Pakistan should place equal if not greater importance on providing TEC facilities to its South Asian, Central Asian, and West Asian neighbors, who are eager to tap Pakistan’s TEC potential.

    The Jamestown Foundation: single[tt_news]=4915&tx_ttnews[backPid]=168&no_cache=1
     
  12. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Indian Railway route is strategic masterpiece as that will pull way Afghanistan from Pakistan by reducing / eliminating dependency on Pakistan. Northern Railroute could further be linked to a sea port.
     
  13. SpArK

    SpArK SORCERER Senior Member

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    How much of it will survive is to be seen if ever NATO withdraws from Afghan and the Terromate guys from neighborhood start bombing these using Talibunnies.
     
  14. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    We have built the road from Chahbahar to the North in Afghanistan.

    It was achieved without much hassle, even though the Taliban was next door.

    Why should there is a problem if a raillink is made by India from Iran to North Afghanistan?
     
  15. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    If it comes to that, two Indian Divisions will be sufficient to protect it or may be 20 ITBP battalions. That is not a big deal. Why are we training ANA? To do these jobs only.
     
  16. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    It will survive as the Highway made by India survives.

    I have it from the Brigadier who constructed the highway.

    They are keen on development and are only angered about the occupation by US and Europeans.

    Indians had no issues during construction except in the beginning.
     
  17. SpArK

    SpArK SORCERER Senior Member

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    Sirji, attacking a rail or a train is much easier than creating craters in a highway, hence the threat levels cant be the same.

    We are not successful even @ home in preventing rail mishaps in Maoist areas.
     
  18. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    in the absence of american and nato troops, ANA can not be trusted for safety and security of Indian investments and also sending Indian troops is out of question.

    so the question persist that how in the future, when pakistan is determined to eliminate India from afghanistan with the help of its own terror structure can be stopped.
    once an Indian establishment is attack, there will be casualty and in the absence of credible security apparatus India will be standing helplessly.
    specially if we have to think that from where the resurgence of taliban will take place, then of course its afghan-pak borders and southern afghanistan because northern alliance will give a tough time to taliban in posing any challenge to present government.
     
  19. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Without US and NATO occupation there can be no real development to that part of the World. There will always be war between the Pashtun dominated groups and the Northern groups... Now at least NATO is forcing both parties to co-exist. Who knows, after being forced to work with each other these groups might get used to doing it and hopefully build a more functional Government.
     
  20. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    That is right.

    It is a usual Shia Sunni tangle!
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Why do we disconnect the demographics from the equation?

    [​IMG]

    The North and West are Shia majority.
     
    LETHALFORCE likes this.

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