Lapis lazuli corridor is the transit way through which Afghanistan get connected to central Asia and Europe.
The lapis lazuli corridor starts from Aqina and Turghundi ports, reaches Turkmenistan, crosses to Azerbaijan for Georgia and finally it gets passed to Europe through Istanbul of Turkey.
The agreement of Lapis lazuli project was signed at Eshqabad, Turkmenistan on Nov 15, 2017, in the presence of all 5 countries officials involved in this major project (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia).
Through this route, Afghanistan can export various products and goods such as the marble of Cheshche Shareef, Kandahari Pomegranate, Almond of Zabul, Saffron of Herat, Kunduzi Watermelon, Paktia and Khost’s black peanuts, Badakhshan’s lazuli and many other products. The very first export through this route included 180 Ton Cotton, 23 Ton Raisins, 2.5 Ton Sesame, and 26 Ton watermelon’s seeds.
Lapis lazuli route is a part of the historicalSilk Road through which the lazuli of “Afghanistan was being exported to Europe 4000 years” as per president’s speech during the inauguration.
Previously, it took 24 days to transmit goods from Azerbaijan to turkey, but now through lapis lazuli route it takes only two days.
Through this route the cost and time of exporting goods will decrease.
Pointing out to the eastern and western neighbors the president of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan made it clear during his inauguration speech that “The northern neighbor countries have faith in the bright future of Afghanistan and we will connect Afghanistan with the world through hundreds of more ways”.
Afghanistan’s need to rely on Pakistan and Iran has decreased anymore for exporting and importing, as Lapis Lazulicorridor is the shortest and cheapest route for Afghanistan’s trade to Europe and rest of the world.
The transportation tariffs are off for the Afghan vehicles which pass through this route for the purpose of exporting goods which decreases the cost of export and shorten its time.
Apart from that another major benefit ofLapis Lazuli route is that it facilitates importing natural gas from Turkmenistan in order to develop the economy of Afghanistan and fulfill Afghan citizens need.
In 2018 the exports of Afghanistan have increased by 30%. Lapis lazuli corridor and many other major regional projects have converted Afghanistan’s landlocked location from a challenge to a golden opportunity.
Afghanistan ranked first among the developing countries for economies improving the most in 2017/2018 due to its unprecedented increase in Exporting of goods and products as well as implementing various national projects.
According to the report of “Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan” the annual exports of Afghanistan in 2017 has increased to 831.927 million USD from 596.455 million USD in 2016. From 2000 until 2017 Afghanistan’s Annual exports average is 385.21 million USD while the low record is 69.10 million USD in 2001 and an all-time high record is 831.927 million USD in 2017.
The main opportunities created through Lapis lazuli corridor includes China’s 40 Billion dollars’ investment and decreases Europe’s need for Russia’s Energy while the major challenge of this route is the lack of security for Afghan Railways.
The Lapis Lazuli corridor is the most reliable and safe route for the West and China to access the oil-riched regions of central Asia and Caucasia, because West and China want to make use of Central Asian countries energy without Russia’s consideration and involvement.
Lapis lazuli Corridor, RECCA conference, TAPI and CASA projects are considered as the biggest achievement for National Unity Government &improving Afghanistan’s economy during the President Ashraf Ghani’s presidential period.
Finally, the Lapis lazuli Corridor leads toward regional Development and strengthen the International relations of Afghanistan with Central Asian Countries and Europe.