Chinese Policy in Afghanistan: Likely Dangers Ahead
By Dr. Rajkumar Singh
Once again, with the occupation of Afghanistan territory by the Taliban, at the gun-point and later forming a government there, along with the commanders of several terrorist groups, reminded the region and the world as well of the middle ages of history when only might was right above all other things and the whole nation lived on their cruel mercy. It is an indication what the world at large has gained after decades of fighting against the menace of global terrorism, while losing a lot of security forces, resources, arms and ammunitions and thousands of innocent lives in last five decades.
In this context, not to talk of an ordinary nation but the United States of America, the single superpower of the world, miserably failed in the war against terror with the single achievement of killing Osama bin Laden in the year 2011, at Abbottabad in Pakistan. The US fleeing from Afghanistan without making any viable arrangement for a democratic government working in Kabul proved a blot on international community and a matter of shame for them who claim to be the guarantor of world’s basic human rights, arbitrary rule, democratic values, and quality of life and all that buried in Afghanistan recently.
Although, in all these Taliban was not alone, but Pakistan and China played a decisive role in making the Taliban a grand success and forming a government there which will act on Sharia laws of centuries old whose reflections the world found during the first phase of Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001. Today, it appears that there is no change in Taliban’s ruling policy but they pretend to be good enough with an aim to make fool of world opinion and get international recognition for their government. The two regional powersChina and Pakistan are working on the agenda of their immediate interests, overlooking the dangers for themselves and the region as a whole along with a huge challenge for the global community in the days to come.
Bases of Chinese Policy
In historical perspective the relations between China and Afghanistan have remained cordial and co-operative since the days of the Han dynasty especially in sphere of trade with the profitable Silk Road and thereafter despite the fact that they share a narrow international border. In modern era the foundation of modern Afghanistan completed in the year 1709 and in the 20th century the two countries also fought together in World War Two against Japan. It followed a good relation between them in the initial phase of Cold War and Beijing extended economic help of multi-million dollar to Afghanistan.
As we all are aware those decades of Cold War between USA and USSR have made a big change in regional relations of nations across the world and Chinese relations with Afghanistan interrupted with installation of a pro-Soviet Government in Kabul and later Soviet Union’s direct intervention in December 1979 in which border differences with China and Russia had played a leading role.
For more 20 years beginning in the year 2001 when US started war against terror in Afghanistan, their relations became limited due to growing intense rivalry between China and the United States of America, although trade relations remained uninterrupted making slight harm to bilateral relations and understanding. Both regional countries-China and Afghanistan became active since 2016 when the US expressed its desire to withdraw from Afghanistan and phases of negotiation commenced among stakeholders of Afghanistan.
From the beginning of talks Beijing and Islamabad tried their level best to isolate, rather exclude India in order to minimise its influences and foiled its investments made during the days of US domination in Afghanistan. However, in the whole process the Soviet Russia remained mum silently supporting China and Pakistan against the US if not against India and it followed the footprints of Beijing and suggestions of Pakistan.
Moving towards strategic relationship
China and Afghanistan for a long maintained their trade and commercial relationships earlier that deepened since 2001 when President Hamid Karzai formed a provisional government in the country but even at that time Beijing desired to explore only commercial opportunities refraining from internal politics and the security situation in Afghanistan, although it provided covert assistance to US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in arming Afghan Mujahideen to wage a jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
In fact, at that time the US and NATO forces were dominant in Afghanistan and Beijing did not want to be recognised as a follower of the West in any way. Gradually, as the US appeared in hurry to quit Kabul, China visualised for itself a big role to play and if it failed to catch the opportunity, India would take the benefit of the deteriorating situation.
Viewing for itself a clear chance, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi initiated shuttle diplomacy between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the three countries agreed to establish a trilateral dialogue forum and revive the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s contact group on Afghanistan. At the juncture, the ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) proved a cementing force and an effective way to integrate Afghanistan in the scheme. Earlier, in 2015 China hosted negotiations between Taliban and Afghan officials in Xinjiang’s capital, while between 2014 to 2018, China developed good ties with Taliban by meeting them several times.
Chinese involvement and Pak activity
As the Chinese relations with the US became tense and the latter began to give China jerks in economic relations, particularly in sphere of trade, Beijing saw for itself an opportunity in Afghanistan that it could defeat the US with the help and active support of Pakistan and Taliban fighting against the US and the joint NATO army from the year 2001.
On the other hand, the US also distanced itself from Pakistan and came closer to New Delhi which annoyed both Beijing and Islamabad, resulting in the division of countries at regional level- the US, Afghan Government and India in one group, while China, Pakistan, Taliban and to some extent Soviet Russia in another.
As a follow-up of the agreement held between US and Taliban in early 2020, the date of US withdrawing was approaching and before 11 September 2021, the US forces finally left Afghanistan. Presently, things are moving fast within Afghanistan and in its surroundings, which prevents us saying anything definitely, and hope for the best of the nation in days to come.
Author: Dr. Rajkumar Singh Professor and Head Department of Political Science Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University Madhepura-852113. Bihar, India. [email protected]