In case China succeeds in cultivating relations with the Taliban regime, it will be easier to exert its authority in these troubled areas
China is at it again. Nothing can deter it from indulging in Anti India and Anti US grandiloquence besides projecting itself as a certain replacement of America as ‘Super Power’ hence making relentless efforts to enhance its relevance and area of influence in Asia as well as other countries in the world.
Against this backdrop, undaunted by the image of the Taliban infamous for its medieval mindset, anti-women dictate, tendency to harbour terrorists etc. China is poised to adopt a new strategy and long-term plan to create trouble for India and the United States which is evident from its recent decision to open a new mission in Kabul with immediate effect.
China has recently announced the appointment of Zhao Zhaohui as full-time ambassador to Afghanistan which makes it the first country in the world to establish a direct relationship. Several nations including India had embassies in Kabul but the volatile situation changed after the Taliban took over this troubled country.
China is eyeing mineral wealth
Experts say that China has ignored world opinion to have any official diplomatic relations with the Taliban but posting of a full-time ambassador amounts to indirect recognition and such a step could not be taken even by neighbouring Pakistan which used to claim the ‘Savior’ of the Kabul regime. China has been adopting a Soft policy towards the Taliban which was aimed at alluring the new regime in its debt trap to exploit immense mineral wealth. China’s company Gochin expressed its willingness on April 13, 2023, to invest 10 billion USD in Afghanistan’s Lithium deposits which had been confirmed by the Taliban’s Ministry of Mines and petroleum.
The Chinese company has assured the Taliban regime that it will create 10 lakhs indirect and 120,000 direct jobs in this country. Similarly, Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co (CAPEIC) signed a $540 million deal to extract oil from northern Afghanistan’s Amu Darya basin In January 2023 which is under the plan to go for a bigger kill of vast mineral wealth valuing about one trillion. As per calculations of a joint team from the Pentagon, US Geological Service and USAID, Afghanistan's mineral deposits are worth at least $900bn. As per data, vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan is untapped so far which includes Gold, Copper, Iron, Graphite.
China targets the US
China is keen to send the message to the world that it can spread its influence in other nations like the United States which is under its ambition to become a superpower. It intends to expand its China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor through Afghanistan which may create security concerns for several neighbors. China may soon start oil exploration.
Analysts opine that it will not be easy to succeed in Afghanistan which is known as the “graveyard of empires” and witnessed defeats of several nations including the United States. The Soviet Union was defeated in the 20th century though China’s entry was based on its policy to exploit minerals hence it is trying to create an impression of subsequently benefiting the people of Afghanistan in the job sector besides earning huge revenues.
China has abandoned Pakistan and is directly trapping the Taliban regime which has already fallen to its prey. Taliban’s desperate effort to survive is also a contributory factor in developing close ties with China which has pounced upon this rare opportunity. China will target Afghanistan to expand its Belt and Road initiative which involves an investment of billions of USD and the Taliban may accept it as a possible methodology for generating employment and a path of development that may prove to be a Mirage.
Given a wishful thinking of Pakistan, efforts were made to sell to the world that it would dictate the Taliban regime hence it manipulated to keep India out of the Doha dialogue which prepared a roadmap of US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. But turmoil and strained ties between Pakistan and the Taliban have changed the entire scenario. Pakistan has been at the forefront since 2021 when the Taliban assumed the reign of power in Kabul but its ‘joy-ride’ to needle India proved to be ‘short-lived’ as the former has accused the latter of promoting and supporting the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) which killed 179 people in Pakistan in 2022. Piqued over the grand success of G20 in New Delhi, China may like to capture the Taliban who desperately need dome protector following their failure to get international recognition though two years have elapsed since they took over the reign of power in Kabul on August 15, 2021. Xi’s absence at the G20 did not make much difference and India produced the Delhi declaration which was unanimity thereby enhancing its stature in the world diplomatic arena. Due to a huge investment of about Rs 22,350 crore in various projects, education and social sectors, India faces the unimaginable challenge of dealing with the Taliban if they walk into the trap laid by China. Second, India’s north-south corridor may be affected after the active involvement of China in Afghanistan. Taliban have appreciated India’s investment in Afghanistan in the past but nothing is certain about future investment. Chinese Muslims are fleeing owing to persecution in their home province Xinjiang to seek sanctuary in Afghanistan. In case, China succeeds in cultivating relations with the Taliban regime then it will make it easier for China to exert its authority in these troubled areas.
(The writer is political analyst and senior journalist; views are personal)