By Haider Abbas
The geo-political situation is undergoing a paradigm shift and on a fast developing pace. If the developments may be summed, then, there is a visit of a 9 member delegation of Afghan Taliban (AT) to China (July 28), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in India (July 28) , Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf and ISI Chief Faiz Hameed are in US (July 28) and Pakistan Defense Minister Pervez Khattak is meeting Tajikistan Defense Minister Sher Ali Mirzo (July 28). Everything seem poised towards new ‘alignments and partners’ which does have the potential to change the world-polity in the years to come.
The outstanding surprise which will have to have ripples in New Delhi and Washington alike, is that the AT delegation under Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, me Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The event is in actuality China’s recognition of the incoming AT government. China intends to play an important role in the reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan as it has promised a massive investment in Afghanistan through which it wants to carry out its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China wants AT to guarantee safety and peace with particular reference to East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which China considers as a direct threat to its security.
The welcome gesture of Wang Yi with open-arms to Mulla Baradar is a rare welcome indication from what may be called the super-power of the world, which nonetheless, shows the importance China gives to BRI, as now it has become the proverbial jugular-vein of China’s economic policy. BRI when will pass through Afghanistan will help China reach to Central Asian Republics, Africa, Europe and to the world outside. US which fought AT had to recede and leave Afghanistan with Ashraf Ghani government which is having a tough-time against AT, who want to wrest power from Ghani’s government, once the final withdrawal of US happens by September 11.
Interestingly US Secretary Antony Blinken, at the same time is meeting India’s PM Narendra Modi, EAM S Jaishanker and NSA Ajit Doval to discuss the situation emerging out of Afghanistan. India had always supported forces against AT and has lately vacated its consulates from Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. India, however, has decided not to lend its forces to Ghani’s government which had made Ghani’s army Chief to abandon his visit to New Delhi. Blinken also wants to groom India more firmly into Indo-Pacific, so as to meet China’s challenge by making India put up a more dynamic role in QUAD which has evoked an ire from Russia, the once friend of India , as Russia wanted India to desist from QUAD. Blinken also met Dalai Lama representatives in order to tame China in Tibet. India has long stood by Dalai Lama.
What is now likely to happen in Afghanistan, particularly, after this bonhomie of AT and China? Is now a joint-airstrike from Pakistan alongside AT and China on the cards? This is more specifically because China has lost 9 of its engineers in the Dasu Dam (KPK) blast and had to send a 15 members investigating team to probe for it. This report was related by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Beijing and carried to US by Moeed Yusuf and Faiz Hameed-thus, triggering a speculation of a US footprint behind the blast? Or else what is the point carrying it to US? AT are anti Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan as well as Daesh (ISIS) and Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA). China-AT association is also to thwart any incoming US airstrike on AT in any near future. More so, perhaps, the most immediate fallout of these AT-China and US-India meetings is that AT, after gathering momentum from China are going to pose a hard body posturing towards India. There is now a strategic convergence as China wants its BRI to succeed while India and US are synonymous to see it become a failure.
The China ‘now-in-open-harness ’ with AT has signaled to the world that it would facilitate Ashraf Ghani and AT ‘reconciliation’ and if Ghani is not to relent, then obviously China will officially recognize AT government. Apart from this, China in exchange of peace, want AT to wean out TTP elements from Afghanistan soil. It will invest billions of USD in Afghanistan which is yet another consternation to New Delhi. This has therefore aggravated apprehensions in India as China has been already deep neck into the affairs of Ladakh along with interference in Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Himanchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. China which is at loggerheads with India, more aggressively since Doklam 2017 happened, might now use AT to destabilize the Indian Kashmir which finally would end-up emboldening of Pakistan-the worst bête noir of India.
The rise of government of AT is mostly likely to be accepted by China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan and even by UK. China is also to mobilize more support for AT from Europe for its considerations for BRI. On the other side this apparent friendship between AT and China is not to be an easy-road, as there are two types of Taliban i.e. Afghan Taliban and the other TTP. TTP Chief Noor Wali Mehsud has called in his CNN interview on July 26 to start to wage a war against Pakistan. The ploy is to give an impression that both the Taliban are same, whereas, AT have aligned with China with the agenda to finish-off TTP. China in its official mouthpiece Global Times on July 19 1 , has also clearly demarcated to its populace and also to the world that the two-Talibans are different.
US is desperate of Pakistan for its PM Imran Khan’s ‘absolutely not’ statement to US military bases in Pakistan and now ‘absolute nonsense’ towards the accusations of Pakistan safe havens for terrorists. Here the timings are to be noted. How come US have unearthed an outlawed TTP Chief with a ‘bounty-on-head’ and given space on its prime news channel from an undisclosed location? What does that mean for Pakistan? A US challenge? As for Pakistan, it lost a Captain on July 15 in Pasni in Baluchistan 2 and a Captain and 11 soldiers in KPK on July 13 3. If the joint-investigation report of China and Pakistan point to TTP involvement in the Dasu Dam blast, then for sure, the game in Afghanistan is got to become nastier.
Let’s see what awaits Afghanistan.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.