THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 JANUARY 2019 (The Great Game is not a zero-sum deal: on handling Afghanistan)

The Great Game is not a zero-sum deal: on handling Afghanistan

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Belt and Road Initiative
Mains level: India and neighbourhood relations


  •  There is an air of uncertainty about the U.S.’s intentions in Afghanistan. The likelihood of an American pullout raises the spectre of instability in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia.
  •  If this happens, security could hinge on efforts made by regional powers to stabilise Afghanistan.
  •  India, China never had any intention of contributing troops to NATO’s anti-Taliban campaign.
  •  As Asia’s strongest power and challenger to the U.S., China will shed no tears if the U.S. reduces its military strength or calls it a day after 18 years of a protracted and indecisive war in Afghanistan.

Vital to development

  •  Sharing part of a border with Afghanistan, China has a great interest in its stability.
  •  China would be adversely affected by war and chaos, which could spill over into north-western China, Pakistan, and Central Asia.
  •  As all these areas are vital in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), peace in Afghanistan is critical.
  •  China’s diplomacy has highlighted its contacts with all parties to the conflict and enhanced its status as a power broker.
  •  In 2012, it brought Afghanistan into the regional diplomatic processes by giving it observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  •  At the 18th SCO summit at Qingdao, China, in 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared China’s readiness to train 2,000 law enforcement officers ‘for all parties’ in the next three years.
  •  The initiative was welcomed by Central Asian countries.
  •  The SCO’s programme for 2019-21 also calls for combating terrorism, and generally enhancing security cooperation.

Dealing with Pakistan

  •  The U.S. withdrawal exacerbates conflict, southern Russia will also face the threat of an extremist spillover.
  •  Therefore, Russia and its Central Asian ‘near abroad’ would be willing to expand their cooperation with China to curb insecurity.
  •  How will China deal with Pakistan, its all-weather friend which trains and exports extremists across the Durand Line?
  •  Pakistan has become a crucial link in the BRI. And China has reportedly invested billions in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which cuts across disputed territory in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

Diplomacy by India

  •  India supports China’s role in international negotiations on Afghanistan, the activation of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and other mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation for restoration of peace and development in Afghanistan.
  •  India has certainly contributed much ‘soft power’ ranging from telecommunications to education, Bollywood movies and pop music.
  •  The building for the National Assembly was built with Indian assistance to support Afghanistan’s democracy.
  •  Indian reconstruction largesse, amounting to some $3 billion, has earned it goodwill and popularity.

Way forward

  •  India, which has been against holding talks with the Taliban for a long time, finally sent two retired diplomats, at the ‘non-official level’, to join them at the Moscow peace parleys in November last year.
  •  But India’s lengthy absence from regional diplomacy has resulted in its limited contribution to the negotiations that are necessary to stabilise Afghanistan.
  •  The Afghan government would like to see India-China economic cooperation in Afghanistan that could boost progress and enhance human security.
  •  India and China started a joint training project for Afghan diplomats. They could expand cooperation by facilitating Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
  •  China’s leadership role of the SCO and contacts with all parties (the U.S., the Taliban, the Afghan government, Pakistan, Russia and the five Central Asian states) could give it a vantage in crafting a regional solution on Afghanistan.
  •  That should not prevent India and China from working together, bilaterally and in the SCO, to build a secure Afghanistan.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Which of the statements are correct regarding One Belt One Road initiative?
1. The Belt and Road refers to the landbased Silk Road Economic Belt and the seagoing Maritime Silk Road.
2. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a part of One Belt One Road initiative.
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:
Q.1) Could India help enhance Afghanistan’s security?
Q.2) Would China’s strategic and economic interests prompt it to press Pakistan to stop exporting terrorists across the Durand Line?

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