INDO-CHINA: STRATEGIC COOPERATION IN AFGHANISTAN
Description: On 7 August 2108, the UBC Greater Central Asian Initiative in partnership with the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs held a public speaking event featuring H.E Gul Hussain Ahmadi, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Poland. Ambassador Ahmadi provided a thoughtful and concise overview of India’s and China’s strategic interests and diplomatic activities in Afghanistan.
Background: Established as a branch of UBC’s Institute of Asian Research (IAR) in June 2016, the Greater Central Asian Initiative (GCAI) provides a forum for enhancing public understanding of regional geostrategy, geopolitics, geo-economics, and local culture. It also aims to foster community engagement, raising public awareness, and cultivating ties among students, professionals and experts.
Host: UBC Institute of Asian Research; UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
VSIR Thinking Points:
- Both India and China have an interest in shaping the future of Afghanistan for pragmatic and strategic reasons. Afghanistan is rich in natural resources which India and China need for their continued economic security. A land-bridge to Central Asia, Afghanistan offers a vital connecting link for the proposed TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline that will deliver up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas when commissioned. Consequently, both India and China have signed strategic partnerships agreements with Afghanistan to shore-up its fragile security. These bilateral efforts complement Indo-China diplomatic engagements in multilateral institutions like the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) and the BRICS Leadership Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). All three countries belong to the 26-member Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
- The three strategic drivers of Indo-China interventions in Afghanistan are energy, security and geopolitics, leading some observers to describe this as a “New Great Game.” Bold and innovative thinking will have to guide the strategic planning and decision-making process. In fact, shaping the rules of the international order in the manner that India and China aspire may prove less onerous than standing-up a well-functioning state apparatus in Afghanistan that extends beyond Kabul, the capital city. Although this is likely to be a multi-generational transition, strategic leadership and an openness to discovery-driven learning among Indian and Chinese leaders may help to ensure that options for cooperation outnumber those for competition.
- Traditional forms of knowledge sharing may have greater purchase in Afghanistan than the centralized planning models of India and China – as demonstrated by India’s Naxalite-Maoist rebellion and China’s punitive treatment of Xinjiang’s Muslim minority population. Afghanistan’s insurgent groups (Taliban) and terrorist organizations (Al Qaeda, Islamic State) are likely to resist outside pacification with the same determination that China demonstrates in leveraging the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to counterbalance India’s soft-power advantage in the region. In this regard, India may have a slight advantage constructing indigenous institutions that are representative of Afghanistan’s complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, and tribal constituencies.