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China’s great game in Afghanistan won’t be a duplication of the past

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Since President Biden announced that the United States troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, the world has watched how to handle remaining “the Afghanistan Question” in the post-U.S. occupation era. Historically, due to the fiascos of British expeditions in the 19th century, the Soviet invasion during the 1980s and the present US-led anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan, an inquiry involves who would be willing to go to the war-torn country, which also refers to the “graveyard of empires”.

Recently, some scholars have tried to explore the prospect of China’s embroilment into the “graveyard of empires”. Velina Tchakarova, who is Director of the Austrian Institute for Europe and International Security (AIES), observes that in history “great powers have always tried and failed to turn Afghanistan into a hotbed for their geopolitical ambitions including the U.S. unsuccessful mission in the country.” Now a rising power like China is no exception. Yet Afghanistan will be likely a new front in regional rivalries because China is deliberately preparing to fill the void left by the United States for three objectives, that is, “avoiding a further expansion of the conflict and all-out civil war, promoting intra-Afghan negotiations, and preventing the rise of terrorist forces and activities.” Tchakarova did make a concise summary of Beijing’s geostrategic concerns.

I first put forward the term “China’s Quad” a few months ago, referring to China’s strategic partnerships with Pakistan, Russia and Iran if Beijing aims to play the great game in Eurasia and beyond. Accordingly, I see it necessary for China to work with its quadruple partners to rebuild Afghanistan, which borders China’s most vast region with diverse ethnic and religious minorities. Here arise the puzzles on how China would work with Pakistan, Russia and Iran unprecedentedly to turn Afghanistan into the common geopolitical gain, e.g. if possible to remake it into a permanently neutral state like Switzerland and Austria? And what kind of resources are expected from China to use in achieving its strategic goals in a scene of tension and violence for four decades?

This study argues that China possesses two advantages that would likely outmatch Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States in the case of Afghanistan. First is the long-time stable relations between China and Afghanistan. Even during the heyday of the Cold War, the differences in their political, social-cultural and religious systems didn’t prevent Beijing and Kabul from recognizing reciprocally in 1955 in light of the principle of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. Furthermore, in 1960 the two sides signed the treaty of friendship and reciprocal non-aggression. Since then, no matter who takes power in Kabul, China has observed a belief that a stable, unified and amicable Afghanistan is essential to China’s security and development. Now as the largest rising power in Eurasia, China certainly plays an influential role in the peaceful transition of power in post-war Afghanistan. Even be aware of the ongoing conflicts locally, China has selectively invested in major infrastructure projects such as communication and transportation.

On July 28 in Tianjin, a metropolitan city in China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban. His visit to China was seen as the most crucial diplomatic coup for the Taliban to boost its international stature after recent military gains in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan. Wang said to his Afghan guests that “the Afghan Taliban is an important military and political force in Afghanistan and is expected to play a constructive role in the country’s peace, stability and reconciliation process.” Accordingly, all factions and ethnic groups in Afghanistan are urged to act on the “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” principle that was endorsed by China, aiming to establish an inclusive political structure headed by the Afghan people without any external interferences.

In return, Baradar praised China for being a reliable friend of Afghanistan and its important role in nation-rebuilding. In terms of domestic politics, the Taliban agrees to stand ready to work with other parties to establish a political framework in Afghanistan followed by a new government rebuilt on laws-based, inclusive and accepted by all Afghan people. In foreign affairs, Baradar confided to his Chinese host that the Afghan Taliban would never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China, including no foreign troops remained in the country. This is one of the prerequisites for the new government in Kabul to receive China’s aid. Yet, the Taliban seek “lion’s share of power” in a new government while Kabul generally wants to bring them into the current government, as the special U.S. envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad said on August 4. Given this, there is no insurance of the Taliban’s words.

However, China has another leverage to persuade all parties in Afghanistan to hold the peace talks. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is important for China to advance its strategic goals in Eurasia and Afghanistan itself has been its observer state for more than nine years. On July 14, a special meeting of the SCO—Afghanistan contact group was held in Dushanbe. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that Afghanistan is an important member of the SCO family; thus, it is necessary to pool efforts to assure the local situation is in line with the common interests of Afghanistan and other countries concerned.

So far, the SCO member states have agreed to extend the necessary assistance to nation-rebuilding in Afghanistan while jointly facilitating counter-terrorism cooperation and persuading the Taliban to honor its commitment to break with international terrorist groups. Since China is willing to hold intra-Afghan talks in China in due course, FM Wang Yi met with his Afghan counterpart Mohammed Haneef Atmar during the SCO conference, assuring him that China will support an inclusive political structure in Afghanistan to move towards an independent and neutral nation. Wang clearly said that the Taliban needs to stand clear of all terrorist forces. Echoing Wang’s remarks, Afghan Foreign Minister Atmar reiterated that Afghanistan looks forward to cooperating with China in all areas of politics, economy, education and security in the upcoming nation-rebuilding era.

If Beijing’s decision to play a great role in Afghanistan is seen as driven by its geopolitical and geo-economic designs, it is also necessary to look into China’s image-rebuilding on the world stage. As the rise of China has caused controversial views on its ascendant power, Beijing has worked hard to enhance its image as a non-assertive power. It requires China to play a peace-broker transparently in Afghanistan, where the previous superpowers failed to turn the country into a stable, peaceful and progressing one. Hans Morgenthau once put it, “The policy of prestige was rarely recognized as an end of the struggle for power on the international scene”. Yet China does need to improve its image on the world stage by acting as a civilian power to rebuild Afghanistan including the SCO to play a key role in this regard. In fact, China culturally has a sort of soft power to act, as Stephen Walt said recently, China not only holds the non-intervention principle but also acts more like a Westphalian-typed power in foreign affairs. Accordingly, China argues that the post-war Afghan governance structure should conform to the country’s unique national conditions and development needs without external pressures. China is welcomed by Afghanistan and many other countries which have aspired for political stability, social fairness and economic benefits.

True China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran have their strategic designs. Yet, the U.S.-led military presence in Afghanistan is perceived by China’s “Quad” as a threat to their common interest and stability in the region. In addition, they have shared compatible interests in rebuilding a stable, progressive and inclusive Afghanistan through bilateral and multilateral trade. In the long run, the SCO expects to incorporate Afghanistan into the regional organization rather than isolation from the world. To that end, China needs to learn from its international cooperation properly and steadily. Taking the lesson from the Cold War, China and its strategic partners necessarily allow new Afghanistan open to all rather than becoming an exclusive sphere of influence.

In 2014, China’s foreign policy and national security elites approved the core paper of the “NEWS” strategy which aims to secure its safe access to Eurasia where Afghanistan is the vital pass. For sure, China has several advantages compared to the previous great powers which were buried or being buried in the graveyard of the empires. Yet, Beijing should be also aware of the scene with severe tensions, long-term conflicts and frequent external forces in Afghanistan’s politics. Considering this, this study argues that China must hold prudently the quadruple partners together, e.g. Russia can persuade India to cooperate in rebuilding Afghanistan through the concert of the SCO and ease the pressures from the U.S. and its allies. Pakistan can make the Taliban go for a peaceful settlement in Kabul, however, China needs to encourage its “brothers in ironclad” to do so because it is the only country that has backed the Taliban as well as harbored its top leadership in Pakistan. Equally as an observer state of the SCO, Iran is sure to act a major stabilizer in the regional politics as new President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi has vowed to look to the East for the security and economic needs. In light of what has been discussed above, it is the turn for China to play the great game in Afghanistan and beyond in light of its ancient wisdom and contemporary tips.

Wang Li is Professor of International Relations and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University China.

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The Taliban’s Loss of Popular Support in Afghanistan

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image source: Tehran Times

Afghanistan is currently facing an unprecedented crisis due to the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021. Despite initially claiming to have widespread support from the Afghan population, reports from within the country now suggest that the Taliban’s grip on power is increasingly fragile. The Taliban’s regime has been marked by egregious human rights violations, economic hardship, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and brutal tactics during the war, all of which have contributed to their diminishing popularity. The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer under the oppressive rule of the Taliban, and urgent action is needed to address the humanitarian crisis and restore stability to the region.

Economic Hardship

One of the most pressing issues facing Afghanistan under the Taliban is the economic crisis that has emerged in the wake of their takeover. The country is facing inflation, food shortages, and job losses, all of which are having a significant impact on the lives of ordinary Afghans. The prices for basic goods such as flour and sugar have skyrocketed and many families are struggling to afford even one meal a day. In 2022, many reports emerged that people are selling their kidneys to feed their families.

The Taliban has struggled to revive the economy, and their policies have not been effective in addressing the economic crisis. According to the New York Times, “the Taliban’s financial plan relies heavily on the illicit drug trade, a strategy that may provide some short-term gains but will ultimately lead to greater instability and economic hardship for ordinary Afghans.”

Human Rights Violations

The Taliban’s history of human rights violations, particularly their treatment of women and girls, has also contributed to their loss of popular support in Afghanistan. The Taliban has a reputation for imposing strict restrictions on women’s rights, including banning girls from attending school and requiring women to wear burqas in public. Various media outlets report suggest that women and girls have been virtually invisible in public since the Taliban took over. The Taliban has also used violence against civilians, including women and children who raised voice for their rights. We see constant demonstrations against ban on girls’ education in Kabul and Taliban use to suppress them by using force. No one is allowed to held a protest against the Taliban repressive policies.

Lack of Inclusivity

The Taliban’s government has been criticized for its lack of inclusivity and representation of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. The Taliban is dominated by Pashtuns, and there are concerns that other groups may be marginalized or excluded from political participation. No previous polit al leaders who are in politics for decades is a part of the new set up. Taliban have imposed a narrow interpretation of Islam that does not reflect the country’s diversity and tolerance as well as equal opportunities to men and women. The Taliban’s cabinet is made up entirely of men, and there are no non-Pashtuns or Shia Muslims in key positions.

International Isolation

The Taliban’s return to power has resulted in international isolation, with several countries imposing sanctions and restrictions on the Taliban regime. This has limited the Taliban’s ability to access international aid and resources, which has further exacerbated the economic crisis in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that “the Taliban’s international isolation is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” and that “the country desperately needs international aid to address its economic woes and provide basic services to its people.” Unless the Taliban bring a change to their repressive policies, they will remain isolated in the international community.

Taliban’s Tactics During the War

The Taliban’s tactics during the war against US-led NATO and ISAF forces, including their use of suicide bombings and targeting of civilians, have also contributed to their loss of popular support among Afghans who have been affected by the violence. The New York Times reported in September 2021 that “the Taliban’s brutal tactics during the war have left a legacy of fear and trauma among the Afghan people.” Many Afghans are deeply distrustful of the Taliban because of the group’s violent tactics during the war and the atrocities they committed against civilians. The Taliban’s reputation as a violent and extremist group has made it difficult for them to gain the trust and support of the Afghan population.

Addressing the Issues

The Taliban faces a significant challenge in regaining the trust and support of the Afghan people. They will need to address the economic crisis, provide basic services to the population, and create an inclusive government that represents Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. They will also need to address human rights concerns especially women rights and restore the rule of law. Also, they will need to make significant concessions if they hope to regain the trust of the Afghan people and the international community. They need to create a more stable and predictable environment for the Afghan people if they hope to build a functioning state. The Taliban has taken some steps to address these concerns, including pledging to respect women’s rights and promising to form an inclusive government. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen.


The Taliban’s loss of popular support in Afghanistan is a significant challenge for the group as they seek to govern the country. Economic hardship, human rights violations, women rights, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and the Taliban’s tactics during the war have all contributed to their declining popularity. The Taliban will need to address these issues if they hope to regain the trust and support of the Afghan people and build a functioning state. The Taliban’s future depends on their ability to govern effectively and address the concerns of the Afghan people. If they fail to do so, they risk losing the support of the population and facing significant challenges in the years to come. It remains to be seen whether the Taliban can rise to this challenge and create a stable and prosperous Afghanistan for all its citizens.

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India’s G20 Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities

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The global community has experienced significant disruption, since 2020, due to COVID-19 pandemic. The isolationist economic policies of several powerful Western nations, who drifted away from their erstwhile global approach during Covid-pandemic, compounded its profound impact on the global economy. The economic instability further exacerbated, owing to growing Sino-US rivalry, coupled with Russia-Ukraine conflict, having roots in their intensions to enhance their respective strategic interests in global arena. Despite these challenges, India was successful in shielding its economy from the effects of this disruption. Considering India’s vast population and geographical diversity, this achievement assumes great significance. To India’s credit, it not only managed the pandemic effectively, within its borders, but also selflessly extended assistance to other nations.

The assumption of G20 presidency by India in 2023 offers it a significant opportunity to prove its potential and commitment to global affairs in economic arena. In the recent past, the G20, a leading economic forum, that brings together the world’s leading economies to discuss global economic issue, has been dominated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, overshadowing the grave concerns on contemporary issues, including climate change, poverty, proliferation of nuclear weapons and Supply chain problems amongst others. It cannot be gainsaid that neglect of such issues has gravely affected the economies of Global South, of which India is a key player. India’s renewed pragmatic foreign policy helped it to take this issue with the Western powers during regular bilateral exchanges/mini-lateral forums.

India’s global footprint expanded under the assertive foreign policy pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is evident in India’s proactive engagement with various multilateral forums, including I2U2 (Israel, India, US &UAE), the QUAD (India, Japan, US and Australia) and the SCO. Simultaneously, India’s increasing vocal approach of raising its concerns with the Western powers and aligning itself more closely with the Global South, further yielded the desired outcomes. India has the chance to play an important role in strengthening global architecture and governance on major international economic issues, as it takes the lead in shaping the G20’s priorities.

As an exhibition of inclusivity as well as in conformity with India’s G20 motto ‘’One Earth, One Family, One Future’’, India, ahead of G20 Finance Ministers and Foreign Ministers meet, organized (January 12) the ‘Voice of Global South Summit’, to ensure the concurrence of Global South states on relevant issues. It showcases India’s responsible and effective leadership for the Global South, in addressing their concerns. PM Modi has often reaffirmed that India’s G20 agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented. In the prevailing state of global disorder, India is well-positioned to take the challenge of bringing the international actors, together, India’s persistent goodwill and deft diplomacy are key tools in helping it accomplish this objective. India emerges as a natural mediator because of its cordial relations with the majority of G20 nations and allows it to gently push forward the states in disagreement towards a consensus and jointly work towards a better world.

The global community is confronted with complex and sensitive challenges that needs a nuanced approach. Fortunately, India is uniquely positioned to initiate discussions on a range of issues, including nuclear weapons usage, the role of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and need to revisit the existing economic system. In the backdrop of rising tensions between global players and receding democracies across the world, India’s potential to prioritize human security over military security and promote democratic values cannot be gainsaid, particularly owing to its ancient traditions and pursuance of Gandhian ideology.

With regard to the recently held G20 foreign ministers meeting, there was a certain degree of optimism over the joint communique, however, some observers who ardently follow the geopolitical developments with critic’s eye were even ready to accept the fact that there may not be any desired outcome from the event. As anticipated, the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting failed to forge consensus on a joint communique. The failure is attributed to the sharp differences between Russia-China camp and the US-led West camp over Russia-Ukraine war.  However, despite all the constraints, India as the Chair of the meet was able to garner a major achievement by getting the ministers to come up with an ‘Outcome’ document. It was the first ever document/statement exhibiting that the group had achieved consensus on broader issues. Washington, marking its calibrated step forward, backed Delhi’s statement as a product of consensus on a variety of issues, which was put out by India, as the G 20 Chair.

India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar clarified that there was consensus on 95% of the issues except on two paragraphs, related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In this backdrop, India can pat itself in succeeding to bring out an outcome document from a forum that hosts major international players, entangled in many contentious issues, while simultaneously vouching for the concerns of the Global South. Meanwhile, India diplomacy ensured to utilize the event for engaging in bilateral/mini-lateral meetings with the leading powers viz. US, China, Russia as well as the QUAD. Resorting to its full diplomatic clout, India took initiative to bring close the polarized powers and make them understand each other’s concern to find a common ground.

The questions were constantly being raised over the effectiveness of G-20 forum mainly attributed to its repeated failure to forge a consensus over a particular conflict at the cost of neglecting the other broader issues pertaining to the Global South. This scenario may prompt   developing economies to skip the forum and vouch for more assertive alternative framework. For India, it is crucial that despite the existing differences, it continues to work, ahead of the annual meeting (September 2023) of G20 leaders, towards bringing all the member States on the same page.  The first step towards achieving this goal may be to engage all member nations in constructive dialogue to understand their concerns and reach out to the countries, having different perspectives. This exercise will certainly help India, identify areas of common ground and make efforts to work jointly towards developing mutually beneficial solutions.

The shared values and interests of the G20 nations should be the driver of Indian initiatives as G-20 Chair. It is a fact that all member nations share a commitment to promoting economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction, despite existing differences over few issues in line with their strategic interests. The focus on common goals can help India, build consensus on important issues and promote cooperation among member nations.

India, enjoying the status of, a leader in the global South can leverage its position, to promote greater engagement and cooperation among G20 nations. India has successfully overcome the developmental challenges and pursues an exclusive approach towards issues being confronted by the developing countries. It can offer to share its experiences and knowledge to curtail the gaps between developed and developing economies by forging better understanding and cooperation. 

India, certainly faces a daunting task to bring together all the G20 member States on a common platform with shared goals and benefits, but India can ill afford to ignore the challenge to promote economic growth and development among member countries. In order to realize desired outcome from its presidency of G20, India should persist with its engagement in constructive dialogue through multilateral forums/platforms along with initiatives, which could help promote global economic cooperation. It needs to highlight the shared values and interests and push aside the contentious issues, adversely impacting the economic progress.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as global Institutions play a crucial role in harnessing global economic growth and stability. India, in collaboration with G20 nations, should continue its efforts to further strengthen such global institutions and maintain their identity as key tools, in fomenting economic progress.

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Pakistan: Not a Rebirth but a Suicide of a Nation

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Pakistan as a country, already on life support is in critical need of insane asylum-style electric shock therapies, stripped-naked mud baths, and deep isolation to finally understand its deplorable standings in the world. 

The hopelessness and the dumb-mindedness in tackling their national survival issues lingering on the eve of being totally destroyed are still un-deciphered. The national intelligentsia like a basket case of large-scale incompetency dangles, while establishment and judicial in control of corrupt powers like a Netflix series for the last 500 days for the world to witness a real-time collapse of a nation and a slow death.

Nevertheless, already imprisoned minds are sending Imran Khan to prison, while already dead ideologies trying to kill him. If Imran Khan lives the corrupt opposition will simply die, but if Imran Khan dies, the corrupt opposition will die but very slowly and very surely. The pyramid of corruption-climax has been made visible although the nation is suffocating while passing through the eye of the needle, still unable to destroy it.

Gravely the 1000 bold narratives from the new legendary warrior Imran Khan are still not clear enough for the establishment and judicial to recognize the truth, like dumb and blind, the top leadership like a python of darkness only slithers deeper into its own hole. The current establishment is so weak on moralistic wisdom that it cannot appreciate or deserve a country with its rich resources and the hidden powers of its citizenry. Dead or alive Imran Khan has already carved his position in history, while the darkness of Pakistan still hiding face in unknown dungeons of stolen wealth. 

When a nation, like an open book, visible with mountains of corruption, valleys of incompetence, and rivers of stolen assets drained to cripple the country, crosses the redlines of treachery and treason, it calls for a final revolution against the establishment and corrupt society leading the nation.

The systematic demise of a nation in open public like the historic video game destructions of much richer and more powerful nations of the recent past, Pakistan is being imploded. Like a great chess game, because when the nation easily available as mad, the country an insane asylum while the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest is now a new symbol of freedom from corruption, nevertheless, a great opportunity but already missed over a decade by such a foolish nation, only leaves such deplorable options.

The tragedy of Pakistan; It is not a rebirth of a nation, which already took place 70 years ago; this is the suicide of a nation in slow motion, curated and nurtured by the global corrupt order of perpetual corrupt rule, all in synchronized actions, where the python of corruption keep swallowing its tail and never stops.

It is not an economic collapse, it is a moralistic collapse cooked slowly and seasoned for several decades, it is not the failure of education as it was only incompetency labeled as advanced education, there were no skills, there was no learning of civility and rule of law, but degrees for the walls, for the grand order of subservient. 

Now, if the new warrior leader is gone, the movement will slowly die, but the corrupt opposition is now marked for life. If the leaders gain control, the real war of competency will start. It is incompetency that creates corruption over time; it is the corruption that destroys nations over time. The newly awakened nation needs a brand new global age of expertise and talent. Destroy incompetency to destroy lingering corruption.

It is a collapse of humanity, the jailed, the broken and the assassinated, the sufferers and the victims of corruption, all those one days may rise, like so often during the last millennia, humankind stood up to tyranny and flipped a new page. Long live revolutions

It is not the new funding, only wisdom, and faith that can save the nation, money is only fuel over the fire to allow more corruption to fortify itself. Accept failures boldly and strip naked incompetency forcefully and rebuild a new nation on old graveyards but all on merits but must find the darkness of the nation and kill the python of corruption. It is now life and death struggle, it is only courage and faith that will win. The rest is easy

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