By Hu Weijia (24 Septetember 2017) – India is committed to strengthening its partnership with Afghanistan by taking up 116 “high-impact community developmental projects” in the country. The move came after US President Donald Trump in August unveiled his new strategy on Afghanistan, in which he sought a larger role by India in reinvigorating the economy of the war-torn country.
India will help set up a water supply project for the capital Kabul and a polyclinic in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the Indian newspaper Economic Times reported. India deserves applause for its efforts to play a positive role in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, especially at a time when domestic tax reforms have dealt a blow to India’s own faltering economy.
Afghanistan occupies an important position in India’s diplomacy with peripheral countries. New Delhi’s increasing presence in Afghanistan is not necessarily a bad thing if local people can benefit from the strategic cooperation between India and Afghanistan.
Trump’s call for a larger role for India in Afghanistan has received a positive response from New Delhi. As a result of Trump’s new policy on Afghanistan, the US and India may seek closer cooperation on regional affairs. Such closer interaction and their strategic investment in Afghanistan will likely raise an alarm in countries such as Pakistan. The worst-case scenario is that the countries split into two camps, with one camp siding with the US, India and Afghanistan and the other siding with China, Pakistan and Russia.
The US factor cannot be ignored in the relationship between China and India. The influence of the US always overshadows Asian affairs. Washington feels uneasy with China’s rise and the wide range of acceptance in Asia toward China’s Belt and Road initiative, and it now tries to win over countries along the route to contain China’s rise.
For those who are familiar with the tangled relations among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in history, as well as the vulnerable geopolitical landscape of contemporary Asia, it is possible that Afghanistan can be used as leverage to stir up anxiety among countries in the region – such as China and India – and Trump’s new policy on Afghanistan has made good use of this.
China is an important economic partner of India and one of the main sources of its foreign investment growth. Hostility between the two countries is not in the interests of New Delhi. India should not see the cooperation with Afghanistan as a response to China’s help to Pakistan. In contrast, China and India need to tap the potential of triangular cooperation with Afghanistan.
This report first appeared in Global Times. The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]