Roya Rahmani is Afghanistan’s first woman ambassador to the United States of America. She previously served as Afghanistan’s first woman ambassador to Indonesia and the country’s first accredited ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)As the prospect of peace in Afghanistan grows on the horizon, the groundwork we have laid and the progress that has brought us to this moment stand to improve the lives of not only Afghans, but of millions in the region. The time has come for all of our neighbors to join us in embracing cooperation as the only strategic path to lasting peace and prosperity.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s White House visit on Monday should be a real opportunity for the US to guarantee that any peace plan will ensure that Pakistan treat Afghanistan not as a “strategic depth,” but rather as a path to regional integration and economic connectivity. For decades, progress in Afghanistan has been limited by zero sum calculations and short-sighted competition with those who have preferred to see a weak Afghanistan at the expense of a thriving region. The strained relationship with neighboring Pakistan has had immeasurable costs, from the thousands of lives that have been lost to violent conflict to the years of missed economic opportunities.Once a booming crossroads of the historic silk road, the region has been crippled by the dangerous fear-based logic that has fostered conflict and instability for far too long. This logic assumes that a strong and thriving Afghanistan would extend India’s influence and encourage Pashtun populations living in Pakistan’s border areas to push for borders to be officially redrawn.Trump's unfair attack on Pakistan Read MoreThere is a better way. The peace plan should be an avenue to gain a commitment of the entire establishment of Pakistan to shift its calculation from the status quo to a stance that promotes peace and preserves the democracy and hard won gains of the Afghan people. The Afghan people have spoken and our consultative peace loya jirga, a traditional national assembly of Afghanistan convened to settle national issues, has mandated peace. The Afghan unity government is committed to this mandate, and regional connectivity is a key pillar of the roadmap to peace. For the first time in decades, we have the plan, the leadership, and the human capital in place to bring this long-held vision of peace and prosperity to reality.JUST WATCHEDThe daughters raised as sonsReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
The daughters raised as sons 02:16 From expanding trade and transit opportunities through increased rail connections, to supporting rapid technological advancement through the Open Access Policy for fiber optic networks that was launched in 2016, to moving forward on construction of the extensive Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, we are making continuous progress on all fronts.No country stands to benefit as much from the success of this plan as Pakistan.The future for peace in Afghanistan is much brighter On the cusp of a serious economic crisis, Pakistan’s industry has been seriously hampered by the lack of connectivity in the region. According to a 2018 World Bank report, Pakistan’s energy sector suffers from serious inefficiencies, including a shortage of supply, that costs the economy $18 billion, or 6.5% of its GDP. The report also said that up to 50 million Pakistanis do not have access to electricity and shortage during peak hours is about 24%. In part, this is due to the country’s gas shortages. Pakistan’s natural gas needs could also be significantly met through the TAPI gas pipeline, which is projected to annually transport 33 billion cubic meters of gas. With India tensions simmering, is Imran Khan ready for his first big political test as Pakistan's Prime Minister? Pakistani industry would also benefit enormously from a direct railway link through Afghanistan, connecting Pakistan to Central Asia. The inefficiencies created by the current lack of transportation connections are glaring and costly, especially since Pakistan is one of Uzbekistan’s largest trading partners in the region. The cotton for the Pakistani textile industry, which contributes 60% of the country’s exports, is mainly imported from Uzbekistan. Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan, Pakistani minister for national food security and research, said last December that “the bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Uzbekistan could be increased by direct trade through Afghanistan.” Pakistan’s textile industry would also benefit from the faster connection to Europe and the Caucasus through the newly inaugurated Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which connects Afghanistan to Turkey via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Stay up to date…
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These and many other benefits of connectivity are real and already well underway. Roads, railways, power grids and other infrastructure related to connectivity have been rebuilt or newly constructed. At this historic moment, I like to reflect on the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” This is a time for courage. We must seize the opportunity to cast aside harmful dynamics and build the prosperous and peaceful future that our citizens demand and deserve.