The Russian and British Empires fought for Afghanistan in the 19th century and against the United States and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
As the Taliban takes over in the strategic landlocked nation, the new Great Game Pakistan is in control, with ally China looking to strengthen its grip on the region. Pakistan has deep ties to the Taliban and is accused of supporting the terrorist group in fighting the US-backed government in Kabul, allegations Islamabad denies.
When the Taliban took Kabul last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the Afghans had broken the “shackles of slavery”.
While the Taliban is in talks to decide on their model of government, media reports that some Pakistani officials are involved. A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Islamabad said Pakistan wants a comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan that will ensure peace and stability in the region, but added that the “key role remains with the Afghans”.
China, with no previous involvement in Afghanistan but a strong alliance with Pakistan, has held up an olive branch to the Taliban, lured by the country’s mineral wealth, including its large reserves of lithium, an important component of electric vehicles.
China is also looking at the prospect of additional security for its narrow land route through the Karakoram Mountains to Pakistan. And then there’s India, which has been at a military stalemate with China for over a year.
However, China says the main goal in achieving the Taliban is to protect the western Xinjiang region from anti-Beijing East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorists, who could seek refuge in Afghanistan. “While Pakistan may consider leveraging Afghanistan against India, this is not necessarily the case for China,” said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at the University of Sichuan.
“China’s main concern now is that the Taliban build an inclusive and moderate regime so that terrorism does not spread to Xinjiang and the region. Any other calculation that follows remains to be seen.”
The US government says ETIM no longer exists as a formal organization and is instead a broad label that China uses to suppress a variety of Muslim ethnic groups, including Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang region.
China denies all allegations of abuse. According to Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, China has hindered the prospect of providing the Taliban with the two things the Taliban need to run Afghanistan: diplomatic recognition and much-needed infrastructure and economic aid. .
“An opportunistic China will certainly use the new opening to strategically penetrate mineral-rich Afghanistan and deepen its penetration into Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia,” he said.
Raza Ahmad Rumi, a political commentator who teaches at Ithaca College in New York, said: “The Pakistani cheer witnessed on social media and TV screens was largely linked to undoing Indian influence as conventional policy circles saw it. (Afghan President Ashraf) Ghani’s close ties to India pose a threat.”
India has bitter memories of the previous Taliban stint in power from 1996 to 2001 and the group’s ties to Pakistan.
An Indian Airlines plane was hijacked in 1999 and landed in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. New Delhi had to release three Pakistani terrorists in exchange for the passengers’ return, and the Taliban allowed the hijackers and released prisoners to go to Pakistan.
“Our position today is one of adapting to reality. We have to play the long game in Afghanistan. We don’t have an adjacent border, but we do have interests there,” said Jayant Prasad, a former Indian ambassador to Kabul.
In the past year, as the Taliban became a dominant force and US-mediated negotiations began in Doha, Indian diplomats had opened a line with the group, diplomatic sources in New Delhi said. “We are talking to all stakeholders,” said one of them, but declined to go into the details of the discussions.
Still, as a major economic player, India could be attractive to the Taliban, who want to avoid over-reliance on China, the source said. India has development projects in each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, small and large, including the parliament building it built in Kabul, which was overrun by armed Taliban men last week after it broke into the city. Myra MacDonald, author of three books on South Asia and a former Reuters journalist, said: “This is not a repeat of the past. Everyone will be much more careful this time about exploding Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan as it did in the days before 9 /11 In addition, India is much stronger economically than Pakistan this time in relative terms.’
A senior Taliban member told Reuters that Afghanistan needs help from countries in the region, including Iran, the United States and Russia. “We expect them to help us, support our people, especially the health sector and especially the corporate sector and the mining sector,” said Waheedullah Hashimi, who has access to the group’s decision-making. U.S.”