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Pakistan Afghanistan conundrum

If China and Afghanistan can come to a deal about building a standard gauge rail corridor between Uzbekistan and Pakistan via Kabul (estimated at $5 Billion), economics will take care of the rest. Central Asia and Pakistan needs an additional economic driver. Down the line, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as well as Pakistan can rebuild their main line on their rail networks to standard gauge (the same as in China), and speed up trade.

If the rest of the world disengages with Afghanistan, then they are ceding their influence there to China. If a rail line is built, it will force the world to view the economic opportunities as orders of magnitude larger than what is currently happening.

Pakistan, Central Asia, and not even Iran have the weight to make the afghans turn their heads. But, China has the economic weight. One also has to remember that a united Afghanistan may not last (under the Talibs) if it can’t economically sustain itself, and that gives China leverage.

Pakistan, for its part, needs internal political reconciliation, that allows for good relations with Afghanistan. Then economic growth can grow naturally as businesses expand on the basis of stability; importing Uzbek cotton at the lowest possible price to make textiles in our mills. If cotton can be procured at a low price, our farmers can move on to more high margin crops (especially if water is taxed at the prices of its real economic value).
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