Turkmen-Afghan relations: the example of good-neighborliness and regional integration policy

The “Concept of the foreign policy line of Turkmenistan for 2017-2023” emphasizes: “Cooperation with the states in the region on the principles of mutual understanding and mutual trust is the main condition for maintaining and strengthening peace and security in Central Asia. This also determines the dynamic socio-economic development of the region”.

Particular importance in the foreign policy strategy of our country is attached to the intensification of a dialogue with neighboring Afghanistan, the establishment of diplomatic relations with which 25 years have passed recently.

Turkmenistan fully supports the international community’s efforts aimed at ensuring the prosperous life of the Afghan people and providing practical assistance in the socio-economic revival and sustainable development of Afghanistan.

At the same time, our country, advocating stabilization of the condition and settling a difficult situation in this country, insists on the use of exclusively peaceful, political-diplomatic, trade-economic and humanitarian methods. An important role in this process is to be played by the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, which headquarter was opened in Ashgabat in December 2007 on the initiative of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov.

Once, neutral Turkmenistan, which is gaining the reputation as the peacemaking country, became the country that proposed to use its capital as a venue for several rounds of inter-Afghan talks. For all these years, our country has been rendering assistance to the friendly state in strengthening the foundations of creative life and socio-economic development. An example of this is the export of electricity and liquefied gas at a preferential price, the free of charge construction of social facilities, in particular, the medical and educational establishments, assistance in training young people in educational institutions of Turkmenistan and sending humanitarian aids to the people of Afghanistan on a regular basis.

In recent years, our country has made proposals to consolidate efforts to develop new political and diplomatic tools for the speedy stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, in particular, the preparation under the aegis of the United Nations of a long-term program for the restoration of the country’s economy, as well as expressed readiness to provide its political space for the necessary negotiations process.

Expressing solidarity with the fraternal Afghan people that has experienced many trials over the past decades in their aspiration for peace, unity and harmony, Turkmenistan is taking concrete steps to promote the effective integration of Afghanistan into the international economic processes, and initiates large-scale regional projects in the energy and transport sectors, the implementation of which will contribute to the restoration of the economy and social infrastructure in Afghanistan.

The most significant of these projects include the construction of the transnational gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), and the railroad Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan.

A start to the construction of a new pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India was given in December 2015. According to independent international analysts, the practical implementation of this largest energy project, designed to ensure long-term supply of Turkmen natural gas to the largest countries of South Asia, will be a real contribution of Turkmenistan to the formation of a modern architecture of global energy security, as well as give a powerful impetus to economic development of the countries-parties to the project. Turkmenistan works to address priority social issues, in particular, to create new jobs in Afghanistan.

Of no less importance is cooperation in the transport and communications sector, which is also notable for an impressive potential. Among the important projects, where the national interests of the country are balanced with the requirements for development of neighboring countries and the entire Asian region, is the first stage of the Asian International Transport Corridor Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan. This is the new Atamyrat-Ymamnazar-Akina railway that was commissioned on November 28, 2016 with the participation of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov and President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

A large-scale project initiated by our country aimed at further regional and global integration is expected to have a great socio-economic impact. In the future, the Asian transport corridor will become a part of the extensive railway network of China, providing an access to the rapidly developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region. A steel trunk will become an important link in the transit-transport services on a regional and international scale, contributing to the active integration of the countries-parties to this project into the system of international economic relations.

The total length of the Atamyrat-Ymamnazar-Akina railway, which has been commissioned already, is 88 km, including 85 km section that crosses Turkmenistan and three kilometers between the stations of Ymamnazar and Akina on either sides of the Turkmen-Afghan border.

The new steel trunk will promote an increase in the volume of trade turnover, especially, taking into account the agreement on more supplies to Afghanistan of fuel products produced in Turkmenistan, in particular, oil products and liquefied gas. Moreover, it will give an impetus to the reconstruction of the Afghan economy, tackling social problems, and providing labor employment. The further construction of a section of this steel trunk to the Afghan city of Andkhoy will be carried out by the Turkmen side as well.

In addition, for all the past years the Turkmen electricity has been supplied on preferential terms to the northern regions of Afghanistan. After the completion of the construction of new high-capacity facilities in Lebap and Mary velayats, the volume of electricity supplies in the Afghan direction will further increase.

In May 2015, the Protocol of Meeting was signed between the Minister of Energy of Turkmenistan and the Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which stipulated a decision to supply electricity from Turkmenistan in 2018-2027, and increasing the amount of exported electricity four times during this period.

It should be noted that in recent years, the cooperation between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan has been filled with a new concrete content, which has been promoted by regular Turkmen-Afghan political consultations and bilateral meetings at various, primarily, the top level.

The first state visit of President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in early 2015 (January 21-22) was an exceptionally important step on the way of expanding the interstate relations that have become more noticeably active in recent years. In August of the same year, President of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov made an official return visit to the IRA.

The important bilateral agreements that have been reached at the top level have opened up new opportunities for strengthening trade and economic partnership. The establishment of a joint Intergovernmental Turkmen-Afghan Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, and an active search for new ways and areas for using the existing potential and accumulated experience of joint work are aimed at this.

Particular importance in the Turkmen-Afghan dialogue is attached to the interaction in humanitarian sector, which is enriched by a deeper content from year to year. The history of relations between the two neighboring nations, united by a commonality of traditions and customs, culture, spiritual and moral values, dates back to centuries. That is why the parties create all conditions for the steady expansion of cultural and scientific-educational contacts, exchanges of delegations of culture and art masters, and studying the rich original historical and cultural heritage of the Turkmen and Afghan peoples.