Modern Silk Routes and their Geopolitical Consequences

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The fabled Silk Road, or Silk Route, was a series of trade and cultural routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West with East. The routes linked traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.
Extending 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometres), the Silk Road got its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade which was carried out along its length, and from around 206 BC. This trade was a significant factor in the development of the civilisations of China, the Indian Subcontinent, Persia, Europe and Arabia.
Initiated as long-distance, political and economic interactions between the civilisations and introduced into academic discourse by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen two centuries ago, it was only in the last two decades that it has once more gained a momentum, reflecting the changes brought about by globalisation. These changes, centred on connectivity in various forms, are now becoming part of a strategic vision and institutionalized policy of the nations of Central and South Asia.To what extent these two regions can address the challenges of connectivity along the Silk Road and whether they can be free from the imposition of the interests of global actors are critical factors in an environment that will feel the impact of the downsizing of troops of the US and it’s coalition partners in Afghanistan later this year, the general elections in India in a few months; as well as the continuity or change of political elites in Central Asia, and the political and economic outlook of China and Russia.

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