As the US withdrawal from Afghanistan nears completion, the race for influence is underway. From China to Turkey, each country has specific interests that influence its engagement in Afghanistan’s future, and the relations of regional powers demonstrate the realpolitik at play at a time when the security situation in Afghanistan is fluid and generally deteriorating.
The bomb that took the lives of Chinese personnel working on a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in Pakistan could have a much wider impact.
As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, China will almost certainly be drawn to it for economic and strategic reasons. Estimated to contain untapped mineral wealth worth around US$1 trillion, Afghanistan could provide alternatives to the Kazakhstan-Russia overland route of the Belt-Road Initiative and to the existing route through Pakistan to the Iranian oil and gas fields. In both cases, China would need to be able to fully secure those new routes at a time when the security situation in Afghanistan is looking increasingly precarious and while also ensuring that any unrest in Afghanistan does not spill over into Xinjiang province.
India’s Decision to Negotiate with the Taliban Could Undermine its Efforts to Establish a Democratic Afghanistan
Although India disapproves of the Taliban in public, it has engaged secretly with its representatives, which will raise the Taliban’s confidence and jeopardise New Delhi’s goal of a democratic government in Afghanistan.
Under its “Health Silk Road” programme, Beijing is supplying COVID-19 vaccines to over 80 countries, particularly in the developing world, many of which are members and supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative. While efforts to counter the virus are welcomed, the vaccines in question are largely untried and unapproved. Furthermore, while China has indeed donated vaccines to a few countries, the majority have had to purchase their supplies, in some instances using loans offered by Beijing to do so.
Now serving a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court, the imprisonment of disgraced former president Jacob Zuma has triggered protests and opportunistic looting while perpetuating the division within the African National Congress government between his supporters and those loyal to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Having suffered a political lockdown since August 2019, followed by a Covid-19 lockdown from March this year, in the guise of returning “normality” to the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, the Modi Government has launched an economic snapshot and vision statement to 2030. One indication of Kashmir’s future may be the appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Manoj Sinha, a close acquaintance of Modi’s and a strong proponent of Hinduisation values.