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“Development in Afghanistan means development in China”

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“Development in Afghanistan means development in China”

Ambassador Liu Jinsong of China and Afghanistan’s director of government dailies’ academic conversation on the ancient silk route and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Welcoming the General Director of Government Dailies of Afghanistan, Ambassador Liu Jinsong of China praised Dr. Shamsulhaq Aryanfar’s works, saying what he has written in his latest article ‘Afghanistan center of Silk Road’s Transit’ was important.

The two sides held academic conversations on history, culture and cooperation of the two countries in the course of history which is outlines as Q.A and are as follows:

Ambassador Liu: You have a better understanding of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I’ve read your article and found it very interesting, in particular, your proposals for Afghan officials. Besides being a historian, you could be a good strategic thinker too.

Dr. Aryanfar: Let me thank you for your invitation and your special attention to my article, as there are few people in Afghanistan that paying attention to such articles. During my visit to China like six months ago, I saw too many big projects were being implemented there, including the BRI and upon my return I had a serious discussion with acting Minister of Information and Culture that we shouldn’t sidelined in such a big project.

China is very much close to our culture and tradition and I’ve heard about many places in China which made me to be very much enthusiast to visit the country and in particular those places.

Afghanistan and China born to be the natural neighbors, we had relations since centuries and even that of the ancient silk route. The Buddhism was first going to China from Afghanistan which definitely shows how close we were in term of relation and people to people contact.

There are some Buddhist caves in China that showing Afghans’ presence there. Afghanistan was Buddhism Kaaba and Buddhists were coming to Afghanistan for worships.

China has the same number of province as Afghanistan, and a relic related to Aryans period was identified in Shanghai of China which shows that the two countries’ have century-old relations. Meanwhile Afghanistan’s history began with Chinese great traveller Xuanzang’s visit of Afghanistan.

Ambassador Liu:  Afghanistan and China are indeed two relatives and there are some tribes who came to Afghanistan and settled here till now. Afghans have done three main devotions for Chinese culture. First that Buddhism went from India to China via Afghanistan, and second that scholars also went to China from Afghanistan to raise awareness on the religion.  We have even some festivals that come through Afghanistan.

For the third, Afghanistan was sending commercial goods which were coming from the ancient Greece and Rome. Afghans have also transferred the culture of decorating the glasses with paintings to China. Afghan Lapiz Lazuli helped Chinese painter to use as blue color for painting.

We had very good security cooperation too. Once in 18th century when the separatist leaders of China’s Xinjiang fled to Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and based on bilateral cooperation, the Afghans sent them back to China.

We need to inform the new generation that BRI is an initiative connects the countries as well as could turn Afghanistan as one of the main transit center. I am hereby asking you Dr. Arynafar that why the ancient Silk Route was declined?

Dr. Aryanfar: The ancient Silk Road’s decline is due to new inventions in the west, like ships that eased transportations of goods, insecurity along the silk route, and political ups and downs in the region in the last two hundred years.

Ambassador Liu: I am agreeing with you, there were many challenges in both Afghanistan and China that led to decline of the Road. Insecurity in Afghanistan and corruption in China paved the way for western countries to continue their inventions and meddling in Chinese and Afghans affairs. Such situation also led to decreasing of relations between the two neighbors. We need to learn from the history and do not go the same road which badly affected us. The implementation of BRI needs unity and commitments among the nations.

Dr. Aryanfar: Western imperialism had badly affected Afghanistan and China. Once upon a time someone asked me when war was going to end? I told him that if the foreign meddling in Afghan affairs ended.

Ambassador Liu: The imperialism had badly affected our cultures and the economy of our countries. But since reform and opening-up took place, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased. In 1979 our GDP was 184 USD per person annually while Afghanistan’s GDP was 287 USD per person annually. Now our GDP is 9000 USD per person while yours is 600 USD per person annually. I don’t mean to downplay the Afhgan development. It is because that Chinese Opening-up Policy led to development and the 40 years war devastated your country. We must learn from our experiences and be careful of the future. We hope for Afghanistan’s peace and stability. History shows that a nation could defend itself and achieve propriety and development.

Dr. Aryanfar: Afghans are aware of the situation, but meddling is to that extent that they cannot prevent it. What does Afghanistan have that made about 40 countries to rush into the country, however their plans are for other countries. China could help Afghans to return back to its glories days.

The donor countries know that BRI project in Afghanistan would end the ongoing challenges, but they don’t have plan for it, rather trying to disturb the project and China too. I would like to ask that why BRI not cross through Afghanistan and why the countries don’t have interest on its implementation in our country?

Ambassador Liu: Two points are really important for China. First we want to have projects in this country to turn back Afghanistan as one of the center of transit in Asia. We see Afghanistan as a friend. Development in Afghanistan is indeed development in China. The ongoing instability will affect China too. We are trying to bring about positive changes in Afghans’ life. We respect the Afghan sovereignty. 

There is consensus to support the BRI project, if some countries do not support it, I am sure they will find their interests and join the Initiative later.

Second, we will work with those having the same idea with us, then with those questioning our project, as per our President Xi’s saying, we would work with people having different opinions. Some countries think that China might act as other former big powers to dominate the region, but indeed the project is collective efforts and in the interest of the whole region.

BRI is an economic project that would establish human resources cooperation, not bringing about differences among nations. The investment would only for glorifying the countries.

Dr. Aryanfar: I think BRI is a masterpiece that would change the whole world. This is the first initiative that came from Asia for the whole world. Those opposing the project would be sidelined and later would regret. But to better introduce the project, China inviting only those having command on English language, but nothing more. China either invites high ranking officials or only those young people know English language. Such step won’t raise awareness on the impact of the project. You may invite scholars or media men to help raise awareness on BRI initiative of China.

Ambassador Liu: I agree with you in principle and we would consider your proposal. Referring to your point on those countries questioning the project, I can remind a Dari expression says, “Spring won’t come with only a flower”. All the current problems are due to poverty. BRI emphasizes on prosperity, peace, stability and solidarity. We would be sending some experts to Afghanistan to find their colleagues and help improve the bilateral ties. Meanwhile I am asking Afghan journalists, researchers and scholars to attach more importance to the studies on China, so that to bolster the bilateral ties.

In your article, you have focused on Afghanistan’ role in BRI. We have initially focused on Afghanistan involvement of the project. We don’t have any discrimination and eager to see Afghanistan’s development. We provide 1000 training courses opportunities and 130 governmental scholarships to Afghans on annual basis that definitely shows our goodwill to Afghanistan.

The BRI’s plan especially the main infrastructure projects for South and Central Asia has not yet finalized. Security in Afghanistan is a major challenge. Hairatan connectivity project linking with Chinese coastal area and the central Asia railroad could be parts of the BRI initiative.

Dr. Aryanfar: Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, the then Britain and even that of the USSR passed through Afghanistan, but why not BRI?

Ambassador Liu: We are different with the powers you mentioned. Afghanistan’s role and share in BRI could increase in the future. Security is still a major challenge.

Dr. Aryanfar: Instability has been imposed on us. If China reveal a plan, I am sure peace would come to the country. The main issue is that there are countries not allowing the BRI pass through Afghanistan.

Ambassador Liu: President Ghani has offered a package for peace reconciliation. We hope that could work and let the terrorists in Afghanistan be eradicated based on international cooperation. BRI is vital for the whole world.

There should be market in Afghanistan to attract the investors. Afghanistan underground mines should be exploited, and Afghanistan could also benefit through its transit location in the region. There are also international financial institutions that could help Afghanistan to develop.

Dr. Aryanfar: The BRI is now crossing through Pakistan with a long distance which is also very expensive. But why that project is not going through Afghan soil? What is your opinion?

Ambassador Liu: Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two close neighbors of China. We want peace and development in both countries. I may have a joke that a boyfriend or girlfriend could be changed, but not a neighbor. I hope the two countries could understand each other.

There are differences between the two countries. We hope you overcome the problems and establish friendly ties.

Meanwhile we hope that Afghanistan turns to be the center of commerce. Most of the lines in BRI are considered on the basis of investor’s interests and market force