Herat, Afghanistan (CNN) - In several Afghan provinces the fight to curb the growing of opium poppies seems to be a losing battle.
In 2011 a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime survey said opium poppy cultivation rose by 7% overall from the prior year. Opium poppy has been one of the main sources of funding for the Taliban especially since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Poppy cultivation is expected to grow partly because the opium poppy's prices are rising and because farmers are having a hard time deriving as much profit from alternative crops.
But one Afghan province is showing real progress in doing just that. The alternative crop is the world's most expensive spice, saffron.
Yangon, Myanmar (CNN) - Myanmar has been closed off to most of the world for the last 50 years. But as its government continues down a road of reform, Myanmar is emerging as the missing link between China and India, with investors wondering if it’s time to re-enter the country.
A half century of military rule meant economic isolation for Myanmar, which saw it sink from being one of the most prosperous countries in Asia to one of the poorest. But economic reforms are happening in tandem with political reforms and the new civilian government is keen to prove to the world that the country is open for business and is no longer such a risky investment.
Abu Dhabi (CNN) - There are more than 2.2 million Filipino workers in the Middle East. Not only are they a vital part of the region’s workforce, the money they send home makes a valuable contribution to the Philippine economy.
Some of the poorest Filipinos in Manilla work and live in a giant charcoal factory in the Tondo slum, constantly breathing toxic fumes. It’s an all-too-common existence in a country where about 30% of the population live below the poverty line, according to the government.
For many Filipinos the only way to escape this kind of hardship is to find work abroad. Millions have migrated to the economic powerhouses of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.
India and Pakistan’s border in Kashmir is one of the most dangerous in the world. But the "Line of Control" dividing them has been opened to trade, in the hope that it can boost the local economy and help build peace between the two nations.
Kashmir has been a major flashpoint for India and Pakistan since the countries were partitioned at the end of British rule in 1947. Both say Kashmir belongs to them.
There's still a heavy security presence throughout the area, but the situation is much better than it was a few years ago, say local residents. And the relative calm is bolstering trade.
Demra, Bangladesh (CNN) - Centuries ago, "jamdani" was among the most highly prized textiles in the world. But these days it's being replaced by cheaper, mass-produced materials, and the expertise needed to make traditional jamdani is dying out.
Jamdani originated in what is now Bangladesh, many centuries ago. Woven on hand looms, for hundreds of years it was traded everywhere from Bengal to China, and as far west as Italy. Historical accounts from the British East India Company show exports of jamdanis in the 1700s worth millions of rupees.
Abu Dhabi (CNN) - An Abu Dhabi mosque is being adorned with beautiful new mosaics - thanks to some traditional Italian craftsmanship.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is first and foremost a place of worship, but in less than five years it has become synonymous with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Enrico Fantini is a fourth-generation Italian mosaic artisan who was recruited to work on the vast exterior ground and key parts of the grand interior. “We are very proud to have an Italian tradition - the mosaic started in the Byzantine world, the Roman world,” Fantini told CNN’s John Defterios.
The United States aims to promote stability in Central Asia by encouraging trade in the region, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told CNN.
The American strategy focuses on bolstering north-south trade, linking India and Pakistan via Afghanistan to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
“If people are trading with each other, if they are investing in each other's countries, if they are engaged in commerce of all kinds, there develop relationships and, frankly, stakes in peace and security that are desperately needed,” Clinton told CNN’s Jill Dougherty.
Mumbai, India (CNN) – While Japan has a slowing economy and an aging population, India has just the opposite. That’s why the number of Japanese companies in India has doubled in the last two years.
Japanese businesses looking to expand are faced with problems at home, including a strong Yen, which makes exports expensive, and a weak economy, which means shrinking domestic demand. The result? Many Japanese businesses are looking to grow overseas, with India emerging as a favored destination.
Japanese companies are investing in various sectors of the Indian economy, such as automobiles, white goods and pharmaceuticals, and Japan has invested billions of dollars in the construction of an industrial corridor linking Mumbai with Delhi.
Inner Mongolia, China (CNN) - The Mongols once dominated China, just part of their vast empire stretching from Moscow to Guangzhou. Eventually, the Chinese chased out their conquerers and claimed Mongol land - an area now known as Inner Mongolia.
Today, only one in five of the autonomous region's near 20-million people are ethnic Mongolian, leading to fears their culture could disappear.
Anda Union, a traditional Mogolian folk singer, told CNN’s Eunice Yoon: "It is very difficult for us to preserve our Mongolian culture in this big cultural environment because there are so many different cultures all competing with each other.”
Dubai (CNN) - Driven by demand from the growing Indian and Chinese middle classes, Dubai is fast emerging as a significant diamond hub.
With worldwide demand for diamonds set to grow by 6% a year to 2020, Dubai is vying for a piece of the world's diamond pie, competing against other global diamond hubs, such as Antwerp and Mumbai.
Dubai's location means it can serve as the gateway into parts of Africa and the Middle East, and the emirate is taking concrete steps to gain a foothold in the market. In 2004 it set up the Dubai Diamond Exchange - a subsidiary of its central commodities authority, the DMCC. Since then it has seen a meteoric growth in trade.
Along the Silk Road
“Along the Silk Road” explores the burgeoning trade and investment links from the Middle East to Asia – Beijing, Mumbai, Istanbul, Kabul, Moscow, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Dubai.
The series surveys the export-driven economies, countries with vast capitals of reserve and natural resources, that economic forecasters pinpoint as ringleaders of growth for the next quarter of a century.
Catch “Along the Silk Road” every Wednesday on CNN International within Global Exchange:
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