By Saikat Kumar Basu and Peiman Zandi
India, the biggest global democracy is also the largest country in South Asia constituting the second largest global human population. The country is projected to become the most populous country of the world in the next two-three decades; and hence is in dire need for expanding her economic base and foreign investments significantly to cater to substantially huge population in the future. Unfortunately, due to the turmoil and pressures of domestic politics the foreign policy of the largest democracy has been rather neglected and as a consequence the economy has not expanded to the expected dimension. Vital geo-political, strategic and socio-economic relationships with adjoining neighboring countries were neglected and compromised in the recent past. The Ministry of External Affairs has been cutting funds and aids in the past promised to other dependent countries on the context of pre-budget cut reducing the credibility of the Indian government in the field of foreign affairs and mutual cooperation with other countries in Asia. It clearly indicates lack of planning and coordination among different forerunning government departments, bureaucrats, ministers, advisers and planners. In spite of the potentials, the country has been extremely slow in making steady economic progress in the last two decades. However, with the new federal government in office since May 2014 (with an enviable majority in the parliament); India has restructured her economic and foreign policy and has been increasing her presence and interaction in the Asia-Pacific region appreciably. This brings new hope for the stagnant South Asian economy. The general agreement with major global powers and Iran on an acceptable nuclear deal has opened new doors of opportunity for the economy of Iran. Now the sanctions against free trade and commerce will be withdrawn; and Iran would be able to participate more actively in expanding her economy without restrictions beyond her borders; and trade more efficiently with adjacent neighboring countries.
The political situation in Afghanistan has been turning quite alarming not only for the regional peace and security of Central and South Asia; but for the entire planet as reflected by recent repeated insurgent activities and failure in establishing peaceful power sharing formula. Afghanistan is a multi ethnic nation which includes Pashtun, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens and other minorities. Peace negotiation and a long term power sharing formula including all ethnic groups across a dialogue table will be crucial to bring peace to the war ravaged nation. The withdrawal of NATO forces, repeated insurgent attacks in different parts of the nation, deepening economic crisis and poor socio-economic conditions of the local inhabitants is pushing the nation backward from the roads of progress. It will be important for all the regional powers like Pakistan, India, Iran, China and Russia in addition to the United Nation, the United States and European Union to extend their support and cooperation for the long-term peace negotiations between divergent ethnic and sectarian groups in Afghanistan. If peace is successfully established in Afghanistan that would bring in great socio-economic stability to the Asian heartland and more importantly economic progress for the local people. An important boost to the peace process in Afghanistan should be rapid economic progress. For achieving this, closer economic relation of Afghanistan with major emergent economies of the region will be important.
Based on the above circumstances, a comprehensive strategic and economic cooperation between Afghanistan, Iran and India will be mutually beneficial for these three friendly nations. It will be to the best of the interests of these nations to explore this economic opportunity for regional and global peace, prosperity, progress and development. A future Afghanistan-Iran-India economic corridor is therefore welcome news; and a long-term strategic and diplomatic success for the three nations with unique history, culture, multiple ethnicities, languages and religions. The three national governments have initiated cooperation in building new grounds for stronger mutually beneficial economic, strategic and diplomatic ties; but this need to be expanded further and faster. India in close cooperation with Iran has been developing and expanding the Chabahar port in the Gulf of Oman as a future gateway to energy rich Central Asia via Iran and Afghanistan for establishing economic and energy security for the entire region.
If Afghanistan-Iran-India is successful in establishing a new economic corridor to the energy rich Central Asian states by a close knit network of roadways and railways through Iran and Afghanistan; and by finally connecting the Iranian port of Chabahar in the Sistan-Balochistan province with Indian ports on the west coast; it can transform the economic scenario of the entire Central and South Asian region dramatically. India, Afghanistan and Iran are three emergent Asian economies and lucrative, future, foreign investment destinations that need to work together with Central Asian states for tapping the huge mineral and energy resources of the region for joint economic development of the vast Central and South Asian region.
The BRICKS and SCO have opened up new economic opportunities for the rapid economic transformation of the Eurasia including South and Central Asia. This will not only open up new economic ties but also serve as an important dialogue platform for major global powers of Eurasia to communicate with equal rights and status; and help in resolving many bilateral/multilateral concerns and issues among them both peacefully and respectfully in a friendly and cooperative environment. India, Iran, Afghanistan now to further extend their economic engagements with China and Russia for building a stronger economic zone across Eurasia from the Central Asia highlands across Afghanistan and Iran to the vast Indian subcontinent. It will be an excellent gesture for the SAARC member nations to now also include Iran and Myanmar as full members to expand the SAARC trading and economic zone and build a new history of economic cooperation in the region for better future prospects. If connectivity could be established successfully from Central Asia via Afghanistan-Iran-India economic corridor passing through Bangladesh and Myanmar to the South East Asian region; thereby connecting the ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; that could bring in further magical economic developments for the vast region stretching between Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. Such regional cooperation if successful could connect Central and West Asia via India to South East Asia opening up a gigantic economic corridor and a grand Asian market for the future. Thus an Afghanistan-Iran-India economic corridor is a new possibility for an emergent Asian economy that could link energy rich Central Asia to the lucrative markets of the South East Asia. A broad market with substantially huge global population can transform the economic future of the Asian continent significantly.
Source- The Daily Outlook Afghanistan