Rise of Taliban and geopolitics

Afghanistan has become the cynosure of regional attention

The Taliban’s rise to power has changed the geopolitical scenario in a very short period. Afghanistan’s neighbours are striving hard to adjust to the Taliban regime. All the neighbours are vying for their interests. A sense of euphoria is noticed in Pakistan following the withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban’s ascendency to power. According to Eurasia Group Analysts, “Pakistan will see the rise of the Taliban as a major setback for its arch-rival India and thus a positive outcome”.

Undoubtedly, the Taliban’s rise left India with little room to orchestrate terrorist activities against Pakistan. The Taliban’s victory has decimated India’s diplomatic stakes and it has also scuttled $3 billion’s worth of investment in Afghanistan to win their consent against Pakistan. Deputy Director of the Asia Program at Woodrow Wilson Center Michael Kugelman maintains that the power shift in Afghanistan has pulled it into a “tough strategic state“. Pakistan can witness a huge influx of Afghan refugees and it can pave the way for further challenges. UNHCR estimates that approximately 400,000 Afghans have left their homes this year. Only a handful of people have returned to Afghanistan. There are 1.4 million Afghans in Pakistan out of 2.6 million all over the world.

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According to South Asian Terrorism Portal, from 2010 to 2015, 10,000 Pakistani civilians lost their lives. However, the numbers of killings have declined since then, but they can rise again. Secondly, a struggling economy like Pakistan that depends upon a $6 billion IMF programme can witness further pressure. In a nutshell, till now it is clear that India has lost its strategic position to perpetrate terrorist activities in Pakistan and this is advantageous to Pakistan. It is also true that a sense of complacency will be folly for Pakistan. Afghan refugees can pose threats to national security and they can prove to be a financial burden also.

Afghanistan has become a center of attention for many countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. The USA will hardly be able to hinder China’s march to Afghanistan. The USA was staying in Afghanistan for various interests and one of them was to keep an eye on China’s activities in the region. The USA did not want to see China as a regional power in Asia. Secondly, along with China, Russia can play a considerable role to fill the vacuum of power left by the USA. Last but not least is that withdrawal of US forces and India’s waning influence in Afghanistan can provide Pakistan with an opportunity to establish economic ties with Russia and Afghanistan

Another important country that is thoroughly observing the situation in Afghanistan is China. China has shown a willingness to establish amicable ties with the Taliban government. Beijing is eager to expand its economic and political network to Afghanistan. When the world was thinking about helping Afghanistan, China extended $31 million’s aid to the Taliban. It can be taken as a confidence-building measure. China and Russia may try to fill the gap left by the USA. China will try to get access to Afghanistan’s minerals worth more than $1 trillion.

There are two main objectives of Beijing behind supporting the Taliban. The first is to achieve a conducive environment for its infrastructure projects. The second is to ensure the seclusion of Uyghur militants.  Some militants have been enjoying safe havens in the Pak-Afghan border regions for years. China wants the Taliban to deprive them of refuge. SaloniSalil, independent geopolitics and Security analyst, writes that ‘China-Pakistan and Taliban alliance might be a big national security challenge to India. Furthermore, if China includes Afghanistan in BRI and exploits its natural resources, it can make India’s leverage in the region worse’

If we talk about Russia, that is another important factor in the region. Moscow is concerned about Central Asia and its economic partnership with China and Pakistan. Russia wants to bar the militants’ organization and movement into central Asia. Pakistan, China, and Russia are likely to form an economic bloc to attain economic and regional cooperation. China will be able to expand; Pakistan will get further proximity to Russia on one hand and will be able to initiate a trade with Afghanistan on the other. Interestingly, an estimate shows that the Pak-Afghan trade potential is about $10 billion a year.

Iran has its interests in Afghanistan. Iran’s goal will be to stem the tide of refugees and drugs on the one hand and to preclude the Taliban from persecuting Hazara Shiites. Hazara Shiites are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has become a center of attention for many countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. The USA will hardly be able to hinder China’s march to Afghanistan. The USA was staying in Afghanistan for various interests and one of them was to keep an eye on China’s activities in the region. The USA did not want to see China as a regional power in Asia. Secondly, along with China, Russia can play a considerable role to fill the vacuum of power left by the USA. Last but not least is that withdrawal of US forces and India’s waning influence in Afghanistan can provide Pakistan with an opportunity to establish economic ties with Russia and Afghanistan.

Wali Ejaz Nekokara
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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