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China for a larger role in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan


Following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, China has emerged as one of the first nations to develop diplomatic channels with the Taliban. 

China has over the past two decades of US-led governance of Afghanistan, maintained a low profile, quietly observing as the longest war in history raged on taking its toll in terms of both resources and lives.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?
  2. China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan
  3. India’s Interests in Afghanistan
  4. Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?

  • Afghanistan is sitting on mineral deposits estimated to be worth up to $3 trillion according to a a former mines minister of Afghanistan.
  • The country is probably home to what may be the world’s largest reserves of lithium – the key ingredient of the large-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Since, China dominates Lithium-Ion Battery Production worldwide, it may seek long-term a contract with the Taliban to develop Afghanistan’s massive untapped lithium reserves in return for mining rights and ownership arrangements.
  • Afghanistan is also rich in several other resources such as gold, oil, bauxite, rare earths, chromium, copper, natural gas, uranium, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: China’s strategic Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) could get more reach if it able to extend the initiative from Pakistan to Afghanistan, with a Peshawar-to-Kabul motorway. The road, which is already being discussed, would create a much shorter land route for faster and convenient access to markets in the Middle East for Chinese goods. A new route through Kabul would also render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.

China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan

  • According to the UN security council, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) had roots in Afghanistan as it received support from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the 2000s.
  • ETIM is an Uyghur Islamic extremist organisation founded in Western China with the aim to establish an independent state called East Turkestan in the place of Xinjiang.
  • Thus, ETIM poses a direct threat to China’s national security and territorial integrity.
  • China is worried that Afghanistan could become a potential haven for the Uyghur extremist group, which could retaliate against the widespread repression of Uyghurs.

India’s Interests in Afghanistan

  • Economic and Strategic Interest: Afghanistan is a gateway to the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian republics.
  • Afghanistan’s main advantage is its geography, as anyone who is in power in Afghanistan controls the land routes connecting India with Central Asia (via Afghanistan).
  • Developmental Projects: The massive reconstruction plans for the country to offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.
  • Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), along with India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented India’s position in Afghanistan.
  • Security Interest: India has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan supported terrorist group operating in the region (e,g. Haqqani network).

Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

  • A new route of BRI through Kabul would render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.
  • With China-Taliban engagement, there can be formation of a new regional geopolitical axis between China-Pakistan-Taliban, which may go against the interests of India.
  • China’s stronghold in Afghanistan will also hamper connectivity projects to Central Asia via Afghanistan. For example, Chabahar Port, International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), TAPI Pipeline.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024