Accidental neighbours

You can choose your friends, not your neighbours, goes the saying. China and Afghanistan weren’t even supposed to be neighbours

Published: 12th February 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2018 02:58 AM   |  A+A-

You can choose your friends, not your neighbours, goes the saying. China and Afghanistan weren’t even supposed to be neighbours

Central Asian ‘Great Game’
The two countries share a narrow border, 76 km long, at the Wakhjir pass. It was carved out in the late 1890s as a result of the ‘Great Game’, when the British and Russian Empires fought for influence in Central Asia. The British did not want a frontier with Russia. So they forced the Afghan emir to take control of the Wakhan Corridor—the narrow strip of territory (bordering China’s Xinjiang, the then British India and Tajikistan under Russian rule) served as a buffer zone

Afghan no to new territory
The inaccessible region of perpetual glaciers gave Afghanistan a common frontier with China for the first time in history, writes Angelo Rasanayagam in his book Afghanistan: A Modern History. Neither the Afghans nor the Chinese were involved. The Afghan emir even objected to the deal, as he had “enough problems with his own people and did not want to be held responsible for ‘the Kyrgyz bandits’ in the Wakhan,” adds Rasanayagam

Zero traffic between China and Afghanistan
Though the nations share a tiny border, there are no roads on both sides, with China ensuring that it remains closed to traffic. China built a road near the border recently not to open a trade route, but to “make it easier for the security services to keep the border sealed”, says Andrew Small in his book The China-Pakistan Axis

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