On Monday 17 September 2018 the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS); held a round table regarding to “Afghanistan, Asia and the new Silk Road: Perspectives from the Ground”. Distinguished academics, economic experts, civil society members and media representatives attended the event. The purpose of this program was; how traders from Afghanistan have played a critical role in connecting the country to other parts of Asia over the past decades, often in the most difficult of circumstances. By focusing on the activities of traders, it will introduce the public and policy makers away to the idea that infrastructures are not only built structures but also often human, and that trading networks are an especially clear example of a human infrastructure than channels the movement of people, ideas, and commodities.
H.E Dr. Mustafa Mastoor, Minister of Economy, spoke about government investment policies, saying that the market’s situation changes constantly, and the successful one is who adjusts himself with such a fluctuating market. Considering the geopolitical position of Afghanistan, the Afghan empires, in the past, had been able to benefit its position appropriately. But since the situation changes regularly, including the policies of the governments and economical goods, Afghanistan and the Silk Road have also been affected by these changes.
Professor Magnus Marsden the Chief Academic Adviser at the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) and Director of the Sussex Asia Centre School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, talked about Human Infrastructures, Informal Diplomacy, Central Asia and the World, Afghans in West Asia’s Northern Tier and Afghans in West Asia’s Southern Tier and conclude with Three simple points:
1. Importance of small and medium size business: collectively responsible for high volume trade: communication with government and incentives to work in Afghanistan as situation in other countries (Turkey and Saudi Arabia) change.
2. In the same sense that hard infrastructures need maintenance, so do human infrastructures: how to effectively build ties between traders based out of Afghanistan and the country itself; how can government of Afghanistan assist traders in maintaining infrastructures - schooling
Geographical categories such as the ‘the Middle East’ and ‘South Asia’ have resulted in the peripheralisation of Afghanistan that straddles conventionally understood culture areas and imperial geographies. Yet Afghanistan can also benefit from its intermediary position by simultaneously forging relations with parts of the world that few other countries have simultaneous access to. Afghan leaders are increasingly seeing the possibilities of forging better ties between the country’s formal and everyday diplomats.
Azrakhsh Hafizi, the president of ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industries and economic affairs analyst, spoke about his personal experiences in the market, and said that Afghanistan’s economic history needs to be written. He also spoke about historical background of Afghanistan’s economy, saying that Afghanistan had a lot of exportations before Changiz Khan’s invasion. But after Changiz Khan’s invasion, Afghanistan’s economy has not witnessed a lot of growth. He has also talked about the changes made in the policies of neighboring countries affecting Afghanistan’s economic growth. In the end, he talked about the challenges and opportunities created after 2001, and said that he is hopeful about the young generation who could contribute in economic development of the country.
The event ended with the Q&A session.