Afghanistan will remain a geopolitical laboratory for U.S.-China rivalry: Raghavan

China is wary of the Taliban and its promises, says Aziz Amin

June 27, 2022 11:58 pm | Updated June 28, 2022 01:12 am IST - CHENNAI

Geopolitics, as far as it is going to operate in Asia, especially in the heartland areas of Central Asia, is not going to be purely geopolitics of the old style or great power rivalries alone but will be driven by a number of other considerations, Srinath Raghavan, historian and author, said.

Speaking at a discussion on the theme of the book The Comrades and the Mullahs-China, Afghanistan and the New Asian Geopolitics written by Ananth Krishnan and Stanly Johny, Mr. Raghavan said the competition would be driven by a number of constrictions, which, in some ways, is what the United States-China rivalry was all about today.

“The competition is more about patterns of development, technology, innovation and really who can present their system to be more acceptable. In that sense, Afghanistan will remain an important laboratory within which to observe the new geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China play up,” he said.

Aziz Amin, former principal secretary to former President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, said China was wary of the Taliban and its promises and is concerned about the non-State actors in Afghanistan. “All the discussions between China and the Taliban have been as to how to neutralise these threats. But expecting the Taliban to crackdown on the Al-Qaeda and other militant groups will come with political consequences,” he said.

China is taking more steps to insert itself as a power player, not just in Afghanistan but also around the region in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and is willing to be involved in domestic politics to a degree not seen before in the past and taking more steps to protect its security, Mr. Krishnan said. “You are seeing a more assertive China that is willing to take more risks but at the same time is cautious enough to not repeat the others’ mistakes in Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr. Johny said regionalism was the key going forward. “Given the domestic diversity, ethnic diversity and the recent history of the country, the regional players always have had some say in the country, especially those in the Central Asian region as well as Iran. These countries are now waiting to see if the Taliban will be able to stabilise the country. Except may be Tajikistan, none of these countries are even making any public statements hostile to the Taliban now,” he said.

Vinitha Revi, independent scholar, Observer Research Foundation, said this was not a crisis that could be solved bilaterally or multilaterally involving superpower rivalry and that regional players need to be involved. China seemed to be the only country that has good working relations with all the parties that have a stake in the conflict and that is something that India would need to consider, she said.

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