China’s Afghan Strategy
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In news: China has invited Afghanistan to join CPEC as the three nations-china, Pakistan and Afghanistan- pledge to have cooperation and not allow any country, group or individual to use its territories for terrorism. The three sides have agreed to jointly work on political mutual trust and reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and terrorism.
Backdrop– From engaging minimally with Kabul since the early 2000s to a proactive Afghan policy after the period of Taliban rule, China’s interest has grown, especially since 2014. Over the last three years, Afghanistan has benefited from significant Chinese contributions in development assistance and aid of over $1.5 billion and also conducting joint patrols with the Afghan authorities.
China’s outreach to Afghanistan shows it pro-active stance. 3 objectives for afghan outreach
- Make Afghanistan a stake holder to give CPEC a greater chance of viability. Now, there are serious questions raised about its viability regarding whether there will be enough trade, whether the rate at which loans are given to Pakistan and if its economy will survive or not.
- It knows that unless Afghanistan stabilizes, the CPEC viability will be threatened by terrorism angle.
- Afghanistan is a producer of lot of raw material which is important to boost trade and the trade route which china envisions.
Rationale behind it
- China is trying to take pro-active stand on Afghanistan after a decade. It seeks to play a larger role if it wants to see Afghanistan move forward. It believes that the CPEC corridor will only work if its neighbours have a stake in it. Hence, there is a larger vision of influencing the south Asian polity.
- Economic as well as security is important for China. Economic development is an important part of CPEC being promoted. The security concerns arises from Xinjian province which shares border with Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.
Benefits to Afghanistan
Afghanistan wants two things from china as part of this process
- Taliban is coming to negotiating table
- Connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan should be strong
US in its Af-Pak policy has given more insistence to India to play a stronger role in maintaining the security and stability of the region. Yet Pakistan is not able to abandon its basic aim to control the India policy of the afghan government. But no afghan government is willing to give Pakistan a veto over their policy.
Impact to India’s interests in the region
This is a new aspect of china- china with global ambitions, asserting itself as a global power at par with USA. As part to this process, it is showing activism in south Asia. Some time ago, it was trying to broker peace between Rohingyas and Myanmar government. They are also active in Nepal and other countries of south Asia. China is also part of quadrilateral coordination group with USA, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The objective was to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Now that USA is out of the talks, it is china which is taking the lead. First china was only interested in economic aspect of its projects. Now it is bothered about what goes in the country. For India, this is at one level a part of the process of new Chinese activism and devise strategies to meet it.
India has objected to CPEC primarily because it passes through Indian Territory illegally occupied by Pakistan. Afghanistan already has a bilateral MoU with china in developing 21st century maritime sea route. However, Afghanistan is still sensitive to India’s concerns.
The only solution in Afghanistan is through reconciliation between Kabul authorizes and Taliban. Pakistan has been vociferous in saying that there is no military solution. Only political solution is the way out. The afghan is also followed this line. But Taliban is not a problem that can be solved through politics as there are previous experiences of Taliban government in Afghanistan which have frequently caused miseries to people.
China has intensified its engagement with Afghanistan, generating concerns among the other major players in Afghanistan including, USA, Russia and India. In coming years, with multilateral engagement over Afghanistan, it is expected to have far-reaching consequences as china seeks higher status and enhanced global role.
Connecting the dots:
- China’s pro-active role in Afghanistan’s economic development and security enhancements is a wake up call for India. Examine the issue in detail.