One Belt One Road initiative and Afghanistan

One-Belt-One-Road initiative and Afghanistan

The silk road through Afghanistan

The One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) Initiative is a regional economic cooperation framework, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, in October 2013, that focuses on connectivity between China and the rest of Eurasia. It consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the ocean-based “Maritime Silk Road.” The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area by building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. Northern, central and southern belts are proposed, with the northern belt going through Central Asia, Russia to Europe; the central belt traversing Central Asia, West Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean; and the southern belt starting from China and proceeding to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Given its location at the crossroads of Central, South, and Southwest Asia, Afghanistan is poised to benefit from and partner with China through the OBOR Initiative.

Current Status

On August 25, 2016, the first train carrying freight containers left Nantong (just north of Shanghai) in eastern China and—after passing through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan—reached the northern Afghan border town and port of Hairatan on September 7, 2016 (7300 kilometers in fourteen days) carrying USD $4 million in commercial goods. Signaling the start of a new “Sino-Afghanistan Special Railway Transportation Project” that can reduce trading costs between the two countries by (est.) 30%, two trains are now scheduled each month: from China, they will bring, for example, textiles, electronic products, and construction materials; returning from Afghanistan, the trains will bring, for instance, marble, leather, wool, cashmere, saffron, dried fruit, and pine seed. In July, Kabul-Urumqi flights also resumed. Under the umbrella of the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative, these efforts follow from a state visit of the Afghan Government’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, to China, where the Afghan and Chinese Foreign Ministers signed an OBOR Memorandum of Understanding on 16 May 2016 in Beijing. Among other shared goals, the MOU expresses a commitment that “The two sides shall jointly promote cooperation on the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative in a bid to realize the goal of common development, and translate the advantages of solid political ties, economic complementarities and people-to-people exchanges into pragmatic cooperation in an effort to promote increasing economic growth.” With considerable human talent and financial resources attached to it, the OBOR Initiative has the potential to serve as an integral part of the Afghan Government’s Infrastructure and Connectivity Development and Private Sector Development National Priority Programs.

Recommended Actions by RECCA-VII and Beyond:

  • Building on the momentum of the new transportation project, identify and pursue other areas of immediate cooperation, under the OBOR Initiative, where the people and governments of Afghanistan and China stand to benefit in the near-term, including in the areas of financial services, natural resource extraction, and energy development.
  • Explore concrete linkages between the USD $43 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and steps to transform Afghanistan into a regional trade and transit hub.
Budget & Funding Status


For this initiative, China has pledged investments totaling more than USD $100 billion to the countries of Greater Central Asia to be sourced, in part, from a USD $40 billion Silk Road Fund and the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
Institutional Partners Afghanistan, China, the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan, and a growing number of Eurasian countries which have associated with the OBOR Initiative