[Editorial Analysis] When China meets Taliban

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: China’s role in stabilizing Afghanistan

Context:

• Amid gloomy Afghanistan’s future, China’s potential role in stabilizing it gives hope for many nations.

• Many debates on the efficacy of the Chinese focus on Afghan’s economic development in stabilizing Afghanistan.

• Many believe that the failure of 1996 plans and hope of success of 2021 Chinese plans is due to lack of economic support in 1996 and availability of economic resources in 2021.

The 1996 Pakistan Failure- The 2021 China’s Thesis:

• China is critical in Pakistan’s plans for Afghanistan.

• The main difference between 1996, where Pakistan installed Taliban in Kabul and its ambition to repeat same in 2021 is the emergence of China as a great power.

• In the 1980s, Pakistan envisioned to leverage the strategic depth in Afghanistan to enhance its regional power, when USSR withdrew troops and the USA turned its back.

• In 1992, within 24 hrs Pakistan supported Mujahideen gained control over Afghanistan.

• However, Pakistan has failed to turn its victory of installing Taliban in 19996 in Afghan into long-term gain because:
1. Pakistan had only religious extremism to offer Afghanistan.

2. It had no vision/agenda for rebuilding Afghanistan.

The 2021 China’s Thesis:

• While in 1996, Pakistan does not have anything to offer but today Pak has China that has the economic resources and political will to invest in the Afghan reconstruction.

• The extension of the CPEC to the west of the Durand Line would seem the easiest way to begin.

• At the same time, many Afghan leaders are eager to draw China’s BRI into their plans for economic modernization.

• During their engagement with China, they pressed China to invest in Afghan.

• For Afghan, China is an important political calculus in limiting Pakistan’s quest for dominance, because:

• In past, the USA had depended on Pak for sustaining a large military presence in Afghanistan.

• India lacks the capability to overcome Pakistan’s huge geographic advantages in Afghan.

• Apart from Afghanistan, many believe that a combination of Chinese economic power and the Pakistan army’s mentorship of the Taliban provides a solid basis for the deliverance of Afghan.

Many nations hope for the success of the 2021 Thesis:

• While China has been cautious, the demands on China to save Afghan are growing.

• The USA that has escalating confrontation with China now sees Afghanistan as a potential area of bilateral cooperation.

• Russia which does have good relation with China now has a common stake in preserving the stability of Afghan frontiers.

• Though in the past, India believed that Afghan would be a natural area of work for both China and India.

• However, nothing conclusive came out after the Wuhan summit in 2018 in this regard.

• All the Afghan’s northern neighbors i.e. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have expanding political and economic ties with China but have traditionally relied on Russia for their security.
• Now they need a larger role of Beijing in Afghan in partnership with Russia.

• Similarly, Iran also deepening ties with China.

The drawbacks of the 2021 thesis:

• Primarily, it relates to the deep sources of caution in Chinese policy.

• Neither the prospect of mining Afghan’s natural resources nor the vanity of being the new superpower will compel China to rush into the Afghan vacuum.

• At the same time, China signaled a tilt towards Kabul rather than the Taliban in the recent Dushanbe event.

• It lauded Kabul for its efforts to maintain national unity and promote social stability and demanded the Taliban to give up its support to terrorism.

• However, many skeptics believe that China can afford to take a principled position while its partner Pak is pushing for a Taliban victory on the ground.

• But there are growing Chinese concerns about the Taliban’s ideology and its potential role in fomenting instability in its Xinjiang province.

• Finally, the problem related to the Taliban will it accept economic development at the centre and open to letting in foreign capital.

The Taliban Positive response:

• In past days, the Taliban has promised not to let Afghan soil be used against China. It has welcomed Chinese investments in Afghan.

• Taliban also emphasized its desire to have good, strong, diplomatic, economic and political relations with the world and that it will not allow anyone to use its territory to threaten the security of other countries.

Way ahead:

• It remains to be seen that this tactical response to the growing concerns in the world about Taliban returns to power or a genuine commitment.

• Pacifying the Taliban is a tall order even for Chinese capital that has shown an enormous appetite for political risks and success in elite capture in different parts of the world.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to Haiti, consider the following statements:
1. It is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Black Sea.
2. It is having the lengthiest coastline in the Greater Antilles.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Critically examine the role of China in Stabilizing Afghanistan.

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