Afghanistan: The Geopolitics of Regional Economic Integration. The Emergence of China as the New Facilitator

Publication date:
Masood Aziz

Policy Research Papers

September 2012

Once a dormant region, the great span of territories and nations surrounding Afghanistan is now more central to global affairs than ever. Indeed, the geopolitics of the region of Central and South Asia may now help define the future of the 21st century.

At the same time, across these territories, the very nature and character of the political, economic and security currents have been shifting relentlessly. Rather than simply a replay of the old "Great Game", what is transpiring here now may be an undeniable precursor of, and a new window looking forward into, the world's contemporary politics, influencing other parts of the globe.

This dynamic is marked by Russia's retreat, and at the same time, the emergence of China as a new type of Pax Romana power. In turn, China's rise is now inexorably re-balancing the interests of both regional and global players such as Russia, India, Europe and the United States. A closer examination of this region reveals that as the West is now hindered by its worst economic crisis since the 1930s, Asia's rise may be reflective of a steadfast ascent and signals a permanent trend pointing to the beginning of an undisputable multipolar world. The military presence of the USand European allies in Afghanistan has defined their engagement in this region for over a decade now. Their efforts were focused on controlling the regional threats impacting Afghanistan and in the process producing economic and social stability. However, despite some advances, Afghanistan's stability is not assured. In particular, the model of intervention pursued by the West in Afghanistan has not produced results in securing its economic growth and its integration within the region. Without assuring Afghanistan's economic stability, the region will remain mired in conflict risking wider instability. What other major force might emerge which would allow for the creation of conditions offering a new dimension of strategic approaches to realising the type of stability, often desired but not attained, and which might act as a positive agent for a more effective regional economic integration?