Will the US turn Afghanistan into a geopolitical bridgehead in Central Asia or work with China to build peace there?

That is a question posed by an editorial in China’s state-run publication Global Times. The editorial believes that the Afghanistan policy revamp by US President Donald Trump is a step in wrong direction.

Presenting the case for greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan and defending Pakistan whom Trump again called a safe haven for terrorists and a duplicitous nation, the editorial says that “the US needs to enhance cooperation with China and improve ties with Pakistan to stabilize the Afghanistan situation.”

Reeking of the usual arrogance of Chinese media that threatens India with war every other day in the ongoing Doklam standoff, the editorial argues that it will be stupid on the part of the US “to abandon Pakistan and particularly short-sighted to get too close to India and drift away from Pakistan.” Pushing the Pakistani case further, it says that the US needs to respect and consider Pakistan’s interests and difficulties, and not push the latter too hard on anti-terrorism issues.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. His emphasis is on increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington. And he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ strategy for South Asia.

At the same time, he came down heavily on Pakistan and warned that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and pressed that it had to change immediately. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan becomes clear with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

Now China is batting for that Pakistan and it tells how hollow these Chinese claims are, either in this boastful editorial about Chinese importance in Afghanistan when it has almost negligible presence there or the response of the China’s Foreign Ministry earlier which defended Pakistan saying the international community should recognize Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism.

Continuing its verbal tirade against the US, which banned some Chinese companies and individuals yesterday for their North Koreans links, the editorial says that there is nothing new in Trump’s Afghanistan policy and it ignores the complicated situation in Pakistan which cannot be handled by a single power.

The editorial accepts that the US doesn’t trust China enough but goes on to say that the US and China share common interests in Afghanistan and proposes that “Afghanistan could become a bridge for the two to expand their cooperation.” While the new US policy sees a clear strategic shift towards India, Afghanistan’s trusted partner in its reconstruction, Global Times finds no initiative on international cooperation and new thinking in Trump’s vision which it believes dangles between the approaches taken by Barack Obama and George W Bush and is aimed at maintaining the status quo.

That line of argument is in stark contrast to what Trump thinks. While detailing the policy in an address to the nation, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved – I’m a problem solver – and, in the end, we will win.” According to Trump and his aides, lengthy deliberations went into formulating the strategy after which Trump reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the example of Iraq where a US withdrawal saw emergence of the Islamic State.

Now if the editorial calls that Afghan policy of the US aimless, it is nothing but driven by its vested interests and anti-India streak. China doesn’t want a US military base in Afghanistan. And China doesn’t want an increased strategic presence of India in Afghanistan that can provide it a vital base overlooking China and deeper access to energy rich Central Asia and Iran.



The weekend passed without any fuss this time. The Chinese state media didn’t come with any editorial warning India of war or disastrous consequences, be it People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party (CPC), or its hawkish tabloid Global Times or China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

Let’s begin with Global Times, the sister publication of People’s Daily that has been the front of the Chinese state media pushing for an India-China war (scenario?) ever since the border standoff between the two countries on the Doklam Plateau began around mid-June.

The only editorial with harsh war rhetoric available on the opinion section of its website is from August 7. Titled ‘India misjudges China’s hope for peace’, it mocks India for miscalculated assessment of Chinese ‘silence’ and then throws the routine, i.e., ‘countermeasures from China will be unavoidable’.

The pattern of all other editorials, especially during the weekend, have been back to viewpoints like the developments around the South China Sea dispute, or the Sino-US trade row or even the Sino-India trade war but the hawkish tone of military war has taken a leave it seems. Now whether it is temporary or the Chinese propaganda machinery will be back to its virtual war with India only time will tell.

To continue..



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is modified and extended.

Global Times, China’s official mouthpiece, has called for an increased Chinese role in South and Southeast Asia. Citing Chinese mediation between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya refugees issue, in an article published today, it says that it is imperative that China protects the interests of its organizations with their increasing global footprint across the world, saying that ‘Beijing cannot turn a deaf ear to such demands’.

Taking its argument to the next level, the article further says that China has made huge investments in many countries under its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative and therefore it has ‘vested interests’ to mediate in regional conflicts including the ‘Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan’. According to the article, the Chinese experience over the Rohingya issue should serve as a template for the larger Chinese role in South and Southeast Asia.

Such provocations by the official media in China are gradually becoming a trend. Recently, an editorial had suggested that China should intervene in the Kashmir issue actively after India had declined illegitimate Chinese demands of clamping down on the Dalai Lama’s Arunachal Pradesh visit. China claims Arunachal Pradesh is South Tibet and even went on to rename six Arunachal Pradesh cities in maps released by it.

India has made it amply clear that the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan, is an integral part of India and if there has to be a dialogue, it has to be bilateral in nature and would focus on Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. If the official Chinese media is still hell bent on advocating increased Chinese mediation in the Kashmir dispute, it should be construed as an extension of the official Chinese propaganda that tried to demean India whenever it gets a chance.

A significant part of China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ passes through PoK where China is making huge investment and which India has objected to as it is ideally an Indian land.

It also exposes the Chinese double standards. China’s considers Arunachal Pradesh its own territory and therefore disputed and cannot tolerate even an exiled Tibetan person, even if the person is the Peace Nobel Laureate, to venture there, whereas it sends an army of its organizations, workers and, in turn, its forces, in the name of safeguarding them, to a disputed territory that has historically been a part of India.

Though some reports say that Myanmar has turned down the offer of Chinese mediation, Myanmar may finally succumb to the Chinese pressure of meddling into its affairs. China has gradually increased its investments in Myanmar to a significant level including an oil pipeline through Myanmar that gives China direct access to crude oil from Middle East and Africa. The oil pipeline was an important piece of China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ map.

China may be the world’s second largest economy but its global reputation is still of an autocratic country with an expansive mindset that is involved in multiple territorial and sea disputes. China’s one party rule has become synonymous with human rights abuses and meddling in global affairs to protect other autocratic regimes like Syria and North Korea.