A Geopolitical Puzzle
It seems that China considers Afghanistan as an important Regional Component in its BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) geopolitical puzzle. The BRI is the political imprint of Chinese leader Xi Jinping that would remain his legacy through a vast Eurasian connectivity strategy aimed at reviving the historic Silk Route. The BRI, known in Chinese and formerly in English as One Belt One Road (OBOR), is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese Government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organisations.
Beijing plans to connect the Afghan component of the BRI with the already existing Pakistani side represented by the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). China’s intentions in this regard are being carried out within the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan venture. At the 2019 Trilateral Meeting, Beijing, Kabul and Islamabad pushed forward to strengthen relations between them, with a reflection on infrastructure projects aimed to increase regional connectivity.
The Taliban advances in controlling large portions of Afghan territory worry Beijing, especially as Chinese investment agreements in Afghanistan have been signed with the current vulnerable government in Kabul. There are some peculiarities associated with it that make Beijing concerned about its investments in Afghanistan, regardless of who would take power in Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani or the Taliban!
The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has destroyed much of the State’s critical infrastructure, making Beijing anxious about the long-term sustainability of its projects. Beijing will also face difficulties in addressing numerous ethnic and religious groups to facilitate its businesses in the war-ravaged South Asian country, especially as the Communist Party of China (CPC) does not have the best record in understanding the religious factors in social relations. Again, it seems that Beijing has no clear understanding about Afghanistan’s warlord politics and decentralised governance structure.
China, now, has diminishing leverage over Afghanistan. The co-operation under the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan venture has been downplayed by the current mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad, the patron of Taliban. The proximity of the Ghani Administration to China-unfriendly India, the regional rival of China-supported Pakistan, diminishes Beijing’s influence over Kabul.
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