BEIJING – China’s first cargo train is set to reach Afghanistan on September 9, as part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative along the ancient Silk Road.

The train left China’s eastern city of Nantong on August 25, to cover a 15 day journey to Hairatan, on Afghanistan’s border with Uzbekistan.

On the way, it is crossing the Alataw pass on the China-Kazakhstan border before heading into Uzbekistan towards Termez.

From Termez, once the springboard of Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan, branch lines also head towards Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan towards the east, and westwards to Uzbekistan’s cultural icons – Samarkand and Bukhara.

The train would enter Afghanistan after the crossing the Friendship Bridge, that was built by the Soviets, on the Amu Darya, marking the boundary between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Subsequently, the railway has been extended by 75 km from Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif, the third largest city of Afghanistan, and capital of its Balkh province.

The cross-border route over the Friendship Bridge has also been used as an important military supply channel for the international forces in Afghanistan as part of the Northern Distribution Network.

The departure of the train signals China’s intent to consolidate ties with Afghanistan, as it grapples to establish to secure transportation links along the New Silk Road, linking Asia with Europe.

The decision to run a cargo train follows concerted effort by China to play a leading role in imparting political stability to Afghanistan, in tune with the scaling down of NATO forces from the country.

The quadrilateral mechanism at the military level on counterterrorism among China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan was established on August 3.