The New Silk Road costs money

Pakistan is virtually levying a fee on the US/NATO military bases in Afghanistan in order to maintain world-class highways.

When it comes to money, trust the United States to be stubborn like a mule. The US instinctively hiked the visa fees for India’s software engineers when money was needed to fortify its border with Mexico. What has India’s engineers got to do with Hispanic migrants? Nothing – except that India’s IT companies were make money out of ‘outsourcing’.

It was, plainly put, highway robbery. Out of all issues in the US-Pakistan standoff – US refusal to apologize for massacring Pakistani soldiers or end drone attacks – the insurmountable block seems to be Pakistan’s decision to raise the tariff fee for NATO convoys plying its highways.

Enter Money. President Barack Obama is livid. And, look at the Pakistani the cheekiness – no less than a 20-fold hike.

We now hear the Pakistani side of the story. The transit routes were obviously yet another whimsical decision by Pervez Musharraf. Whose interests he was serving at that point remains unclear. So, if Pakistan decides today that enough is enough, why should Obama feel agitated?

To my mind, countries like India and Pakistan should take a page out of affluent western nations and learn to count dollars and cents carefully. Such transactions as use of highways or ports should never be treated as oriental soap opera gushing goodwill. On this learning curve, India seems somewhat ahead of Pakistan lately.

How Islamabad arrived at the figure of 5000 dollars as transit fee for every NATO truck seems a reasonable tabulation. But, curiously, even with a hike, the Pakistani route still costs only half the cost by the Northern Distribution Network via Russia/Central Asian states. 

So, Pakistan is virtually levying a fee on the US/NATO military bases in Afghanistan in order to maintain world-class highways. It’s not only a fair deal for Washington but also a good investment on the New Silk Road project. Read the Express Tribune report is here.

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