US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the start of the Bilateral Commission talks at Char Chinar Palace in Kabul on April 9, 2016.
New Silk Road Strategy (NSRS) is on Obama administration’s agenda with the purpose of liberalization of trade flow, acceleration of economic cooperation, increasing trade volume, and improvement of human relations between Central Asia and South Asia, centered by Afghanistan. Generally, the main goals of NSRS pursued by the US can be enumerated as follows:
- Making the US soft power in the region more prominent is considered as the main objective. Silk Road is a very well-known historical name which implies meanings and messages such as trade, economic relations, social bonds, and cultural interactions.
- NSRS, considered a supplement to “Greater Central Asia”, pursues the geopolitical coherence of Central Asia with South Asia, centered by Afghanistan. Operationalization of these plans suggests a shift in the US foreign policy outlook from the eastern-western orientation (Central Asia, and the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus) to northern-southern orientation (Central Asia, Afghanistan, and South Asia).
- Refreshment of the Marshall Plan and strengthening the economic infrastructure of Afghanistan is one of the other objectives of the US in NSRS. Like “Greater Central Asia”, the focus of NSRS is on Afghanistan, a country that links two regions of Central and South Asia.
- The main objective of Obama’s administration in the development and execution of “New Silk Road Strategy” is to create economic integration in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and South Asia. According to the US administration, more than 40 important projects on the infrastructure sector of this region including TAPI Pipeline, 1000 Electricity Transmission and Trade Project for Central Asia and South Asia (CASA) and Hairatan Rail Project have been implemented or are being implemented with political and financial support of the US, accounting for a very important part of NSRS.
- The US objective of NSRS is to undermine the traditional role and place of three rival countries including Iran, Russia, and China.
Implementation of “New Silk Road Strategy” and “Greater Central Asia” is the continuation of the traditional policy of excluding Iran from the transit route of goods and energy in the region. However, Iran is geographical the natural neighbor of Central Asia, Afghanistan, and South Asia and also has played an important role in the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the formation of a national government in this country in Bonn Conference. Security, stability, and economic development of these regions are inextricably linked to Iran’s security. In this regard, multilateral mechanisms and regional cooperation are among the most effective ways for improving the situation in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and South Asia. Hence, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an opportunity for Iran’s effective economic and commercial presence in the region. The recent agreement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India in relation to Chabahar Port is a good example of this presence.
NOTE: This article first presented at Center for Strategic Studies, affiliated to Iranian President Office, on May 29, 2016.
Vali Kaleji, an expert at Iranian Center for Strategic Research, is the senior fellow at IRAS.