REVIEW: Taming the Dragon through Afghanistan

The world order is disrupted and reset in an unprecedented way. China under Xi Jinping is rewriting the calculus of global power with a resolutely assertive Chinese model, rooted in exploiting other nations’ economic vulnerabilities, coercive diplomacy, using gray area tools; flexing its military prowess and pushing a belligerent image of China.

The world finds itself caught in the global tussle and is forced to react to China’s every move; countering China’s claim to Taiwan and the South China Sea, economic subjugation of weaker nations, supply chain monopoly and acquisition of natural resources worldwide, efforts to ensure a assertive presence in global waters, manipulation of global bodies, demonstration of its remarkable advances in technological, space and cyber capabilities, exploitation of the open societies of the democratic world, and demonstration of a willingness to wage war. Although the United States and China remain the main players in the current fight against the world order, Russia, India, Australia, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Europe weigh all heavy in the balance of power, with their own geostrategic, geostrategic differences. economic and geopolitical weight. While the weight of some of these players is constantly increasing, that of Europe and the United Kingdom seems to be declining.

China would see India as a serious long-term regional and global rival; a potential rival of equivalent size, firmly committed to a stable development trajectory in its immediate vicinity, with a diametrically opposed political ideology and a free society, posing serious non-military threats to the Chinese political order and its closed society. China therefore has every reason to feel uncomfortable with a booming India on its doorstep.

In this context, it makes sense that while nations are busy protecting their national interests to secure favorable stakes in the ongoing power struggle and the changing world order, China is doing its utmost to keep India stuck. Keeping India’s neighborhood in turmoil and exploiting its noisy political structure, open society, diversity, vulnerabilities and democratic institutions while simmering bilateral issues and border disputes is an effective, inexpensive, easy option. to be executed and sustained for China to keep India in a perpetual mode of crisis management within a regional swamp.

Amidst the cacophony of this global power tangle, resolving bilateral issues between India and China and tackling China’s incursions and provocations in South Asia should not be a major concern for the community. world. Border issues between India and China will therefore remain a problem for the two neighbors to resolve mutually. Although the status quo in our bilateral relations with China is detrimental to India’s interests, it may suit the Chinese order of things. It is therefore incumbent on India to find ways around this quagmire and be seen as a factor to be reckoned with, economically, diplomatically and militarily, in the larger global equation.

Despite the continuing stalemate, China was India’s second largest trading partner in 2021 and India was among the top 10 trading partners in terms of Chinese exports. Bilateral trade between the two countries reached $125 billion during the year, heavily skewed in favor of China, with Indian imports from China worth nearly $97 billion. India is heavily dependent on China for electronics, mechanical and electrical machinery and APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). Although the events of the past two years have revealed this danger and corrective measures have been taken, the unfavorable imbalance and dependency will take time to overcome. It is important to note, however, that even a protracted stalemate, culminating in a “just before war” degree, did not have a significant impact on bilateral trade. The reason is to be considered from the point of view of both countries. Given its own need to grow at a steady pace, India cannot wish to shake off its dependency overnight while China itself faces one of the toughest economic challenges to perform. the transition from an upper-middle-income to a high-income economy, this too at a time when it faces the real danger of “getting old before getting rich”.

In addition, China is also facing serious environmental problems which could negatively impact the growth of its manufacturing industry and an even more threatening situation caused by the inherent incompatibility of its political ideology with huge multinational conglomerates which are essential and inevitable elements of any modern high technology. -saving income. In the recent past, China has also stirred up unprecedented global ill will, lost what little soft power it had, and is increasingly seen as a dangerous source of economic aid.”

Against the backdrop of this global environment, China seems to be in dire need of collaborative economic partners. The situation is tailor-made to explore joint win-win economic opportunities for India and China. Seen in this context, Afghanistan offers a golden opportunity for India and China to forge a collaborative economic alliance.

Common interests in Afghanistan

A boiling Afghanistan, in their immediate vicinity, is detrimental to the interests of India and China. The Taliban, having taken control of Afghanistan, now find themselves in political, economic, social and economic quicksand. Not a single country, not even Pakistan, has recognized the new dispensation. The influx of food aid itself appears to be uneven. Given the total lack of confidence of potential donors in the delivery of aid to the Afghan people through the Taliban and the absence of any viable mechanism for delivering aid, the chances of an improvement in the situation seems highly unlikely. Iran’s recent outreach, with the delivery of 50,000 tons of food grains from India in addition to medicine, COVID-19 vaccines and other aid materials to Afghanistan, despite the Pakistan’s intransigence is a very positive development. As of January 1, 2022, India had delivered 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan via Iran. A UNDP report dated September 9, 2021 shed light on the pathetic situation in Afghanistan, highlighting the possibility that 97% of its population will fall into poverty by mid-2022.

The only resource that Afghanistan can legitimately monetize that would bring immediate and recurring benefits to its people and any dispensation that comes to power in the country is its mineral resources. The results of the extensive Soviet exploration work of the 1970s and the last American geological survey of 2004-2011 assessed the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, which includes copper, iron ore, lithium, rare earths and gold at over $1 trillion. The unfavorable security environment, general uncertainty and lack of infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water, etc. prevented the exploitation of Afghanistan’s rich mineral wealth.

This is where a huge opportunity lies. Together, India and China can lay the groundwork to get Afghanistan back on track while reaping immense benefits for themselves.

Many winners

An Indo-Chinese mining alliance in Afghanistan can contain Pakistan and bring the Taliban to follow suit and provide security, technology, logistics and skilled manpower. A properly structured joint government framework leading this mining initiative in Afghanistan will provide the confidence needed to attract adequate investment from around the world. There are global investors who have expressed interest in investing funds should such a joint venture indeed materialize, as well as viable models for mobilizing considerable domestic investment from the Indian stock exchange. While India and China are expected to match a percentage of production at a cost calculated on a set of mutually agreed parameters, Afghanistan will benefit from significant upfront and recurring royalty income depending on actual mineral production, in addition to infrastructure, direct and indirect job creation and immense direct benefits to its agriculture in mining jurisdictions through irrigation, power supply, technical inputs and support in terms of soil composition, cropping options, hybrid seeds, etc.

Incentives will also be given to Pakistan and Iran, in terms of huge benefits for their transport industry and transit fees for using their roads and ports. For Afghanistan, there is an opportunity to move from an informal economy based on “the illegal drug trade and foreign aid” to a sustainable formal economy, driven by the exploitation of its untapped mineral wealth. For the region as a whole, Indo-Chinese cooperation in Afghanistan has the potential to usher in an unprecedented environment of peace, stability and regional cooperation. Beyond the region, the evolving global order will experience unexpected twists.

The author is the former Deputy Chief of the Indian Army.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.

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