Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: New Silk Road

New Silk Road

India has backed a multinational initiative to build a multi billion dollar network of roads, railways and gas pipelines linking the resource rich Central Asia with the continent's fast growing economies a project that its advocates describe as a New Silk Road, a modern version of the fabled trade routes.

The project would develop the building blocks of our vision for Afghanistan as a hub linking Central and South Asia through pipelines, trade and transit routes for the common good of the people of our region and the world. The project would help build upon Afghanistan's comparative advantage of abundant natural resources and its strategic geographical location.

The new network would allow Afghanistan and other Central Asian states to attract new sources of foreign private sector investment and access markets abroad. This, in turn, would provide people in the region with credible alternatives to insurgency.

Indian firms are already bidding for the development of the Hajigak iron ore mines in Afghanistan, while Chinese corporations have begun work on a $3 billion investment to tap the country's copper.

New Delhi has also signed on to an $7.6 billion project to build a 2, 000 kilometre pipeline that will bring some 70 billion cubic metres of gas each year from Turkmenistan's Daulatabad fields to India, via Afghanistan and Pakistan. The construction of the pipeline, which will run through some 700 kilometres of Afghan territory and another 800 kilometres of Pakistan, is dogged by security concerns. India and Pakistan will both benefit from its construction, though, since it will give them reliable access to the world's fourth largest gas reserves.

For its part, China has already made substantial investments in Central Asia. In December, 2010, a 1, 833 kilometre pipeline carrying gas from the Saman Depe gasfields of eastern Turkmenistan to China's Xinjiang region went online. China has made substantial investments in energy infrastructure in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Beijing has also launched a number of ambitious highway and rail projects linking Central Asia to its western regions.

The highways and rail links the New Silk Route projects envisage will also give Europe a level of direct access to Central Asia it has not enjoyed since at least the sixteenth century, when the caravans that ferried goods across the region were rendered redundant by the new oceanic trade.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India