It could not have been a coincidence that on the day when the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the Indian leaders to further strengthen strategic partnership between the two countries in his first visit to India , Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a delegation of Taliban in a clear indication that Beijing and Taliban have lot I of common interests in Afghanistan . Essentially, it was an attempt to tell the US and India that China has already made friends with Taliban and the work is in progress to work hand-in-hand after the US vacates Afghanistan by August 31st, a deadline set by the US President Joe Biden.
Taliban has emerged as a focal point for all the stakeholders in Afghanistan. The US, of course, has an interest in saving its legacy as a global power that did whatever it could for the past 20 years to stablise the situation in the war-torn country , but could not reach the finish line of success , because there was none for it to cross due to its own flip-flops in the past 20 years. Though it has committed to help Afghanistan by way of funding ,and also aerial support to Afghan forces in combating and checking military advance of Taliban, but that’s too little and too later
There is a consensus that Taliban has either to be brought on board to talk peace and ensure stability in the country where Americans have quit the forever war ., or it has to be defeated . This is a dilemma, because it is near impossible to defeat Taliban , given the support it has from Pakistan. Now with China entering into formal negotiations with Taliban over the future of Afghanistan , it has gained new diplomatic strength. This has taken wind off the sails of the American diplomacy that has not been able to convince Taliban leadership of peace that is suited to the western style of democracies .
The China- Taliban negotiations have two dimension; one , Taliban sharing power with the Afghan government and running the show , second, of course , is that it captures power owing to its military power . In either case Taliban would have to ensure that it doesn’t allow Afghanistan to become a sanctuary for terrorists again. If Taliban ruled Afghanistan becomes a reality , it would walk straight into the Chinese camp . That scenario will shift the whole geopolitics of the South and Central Asia region , no matter what influence the US would like to use in the region.
China is bringing up a situation where Afghanistan will have no other camp to go . Afghanistan, chained by its geography the perennial internal conflict is a big liability for the international community . It can look forward to Beijing and Islamabad for giving it the stability that it needs because of the growing influence of China in the region . Pakistan, of course, has its deep interests in Afghanistan , and Taliban cannot be thought of without Pakistan . Therefore, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have sworn loyalties toward each other . Pakistan is already working with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries to garner support for Taliban . It has deep animosity with the current Afghan government . It has traded severe charges with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
This is a reality to which neither Delhi nor Washington can turn their back .It is pointless to repeat why this situation has arisen; it is because of America’s flip-flop and then sudden decision to withdraw lock stock and barrel from there without taking into account three imperatives – a deal with Taliban was must , second, it should have created a security environment by encouraging the forces interested in peace and stability or to punish the disrupters of peace , and lastly, it should have anticipated and taken steps to keep China , and China and Pakistan nexus in check. That has not happened, and now it is facing the consequences.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is insisting that America should have entered into dialogue with Taliban when there were sufficient NATO troops on the ground in Afghanistan . That would have given the US a lot of leverage, but doing so at the time of its exit from Afghanistan has tilted the balance in favour of Taliban . There, however, is another undeniable fact that had Pakistan been sincere in ensuring peace in the country to its west, it could have helped the US in holding successful talks with Taliban . That it did not do , now it is obvious, because it was waiting for the moment to see back of American troops to facilitate entry of China in Afghanistan .
Pakistan is indebted to China . It is under debt of billions of dollars , and moreover , it knows that after having burnt the bridges with America for not doing what Washington had expected it to do in bringing stability to Afghanistan by taming Taliban , it has only China to look up to.
With China, Pakistan and Taliban moving in one direction , India has its own worries . Once Taliban gains power in Afghanistan , what would it do with its thousands of cadre who have tasted blood and their thirst for more blood would not be met within their country, they would spread all over beyond the borders of Afghanistan .
Here, growing bonhomie between Beijing and Islamabad and their common quest to resolve the Kashmir issue as per their wish list can cause serious problems for the region. This is what affects India , but the problem is that India has not woken up to this strategic threat till date in real terms. That would open more trouble for India , and it would not be wrong to say that India is ill-prepared to deal with the situation threatening to emerge in the region sooner rather than later.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with