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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : China’s oil gambit in Taliban’s Afghanistan

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(China-Afghanistan relations, Amu Darya basin, Uyghur, Belt and Road Initiative etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings involving India or affecting India’s interests etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The signing of a multi-million-dollar deal between Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co and the Taliban in Kabul is the first major economic win of Taliban since the return of the Islamic Emirate.
    • $540 million deal, gives China access to the Amu Darya basin in northern Afghanistan.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Resources in Afghanistan:

  • Afghanistan has small and medium-sized mineral fields, most of which remain unexplored.
  • Afghanistan is estimated to have an untapped resource of more than $1 trillion.
  • Afghanistan has huge deposits of copper, iron, marble, talc, coal, lithium, chromite, cobalt, gold, lapis lazuli, gemstones, and more

 

China’s aims:

  • A critical strategic aim: keeping Afghanistan and Central Asia out of reach of the West.
  • China has been receptive to the Taliban and has been the most visible power in Afghanistan since the Taliban took charge.
  • China’s approach to Afghanistan would have Pakistan at the center, so that both states are tied to larger projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

 

Challenges:

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has offered space for the U.S. to re-engage in Central Asia.
  • Security concerns. It has pushed the Taliban to act against Uyghur-led militant groups operating inside Afghan territory.
  • Rapid deterioration of the security situation between the Taliban and Pakistan: specifically over the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
    • It may throw a spanner in China’s plans.
  • Recent attacks against Chinese targets in Kabul and Pakistan; It will test China’s poor record of dealing with Islam as a religion, society, and culture.

 

Way Forward:

  • Pakistan’s Afghanistan strategy will not instill much confidence in Beijing’s power corridors.
  • Taliban is aiming to establish a successful Islamic Emirate: To achieve this, they need a somewhat functional economy to fund not only the state, but also individual factions within the umbrella of the Taliban movement.
  • A prolonged economic depression will challenge the authority of the current regime.
    • The challenge may not come from the public, but from within the movement.
  • The Taliban have implemented regressive policies, such as disallowing women’s education.
    • It could lead to further alienation of the regime by the global community.
  • It is unlikely that the Taliban would make ideological concessions only to facilitate certain economic gains after building a narrative of having defeated a superpower.
  • The success or failure of the oil deal could determine the future of Afghanistan-China cooperation.
    • China would be wary of not becoming another footnote in the ‘graveyard of empires’ story.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. With respect to the South China sea, maritime territorial disputes and rising tension affirm the need for safeguarding maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region. In this context, discuss the bilateral issues between India and China.(UPSC 2014) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)