Over the past three years, RUSI has conducted a research project bringing together influential thinkers from China, India, the UK and Afghanistan in a number of workshops in Beijing, New Delhi and Qatar. The aim was to outline areas of common interest between China and India in Afghanistan. As part of this project, we asked Indian and Chinese researchers to offer their perspectives on where Delhi and Beijing could cooperate.
Afghanistan enters the so-called 'decade of transformation' in extremely challenging circumstances: a weak government, an economy in tatters and serious security challenges. Addressing these concerns requires a concerted effort by Afghanistan’s international partners to support the Afghan government. NATO, Western and, most significantly, US engagement in Afghanistan will continue (for now).
However, with the US and its western allies drawing down their military presence, a greater contribution from Afghanistan’s neighbours will be crucial to the sustainability and prosperity of the Afghan state. Cooperation between China and India presents particular opportunities in this regard.
Cooperation between China and India may be the best way to establish the regional stability that Afghanistan needs for its future growth and security. Both regional powers have publically expressed willingness to work together – in particular in health, education, training and agriculture – perhaps a sign that India’s Strategic and Cooperative Partnership with China (2005) is producing some results.
China and India held first bilateral talks on Afghanistan in April 2013 and, during a visit by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping to New Delhi in September 2014, agreed to 'strengthen strategic dialogue' on building 'peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.' Common interests include security concerns emanating from terrorism in the region and the risk of spill-over; though there are significant divergences in attitudes regarding Pakistan and its relationship with the Taliban and other militant proxies.
Both countries also strongly agree about the importance of investment and economic development in Afghanistan accompanied by the vision of the country as a regional trade hub and both emphasise the need for an 'Afghan owned, Afghan-led' political peace process.
The India Perspective
Has the Sino-Indian Dialogue on Afghanistan Been Put on the Backburner? (12 November 2013)
The View from New Delhi: Don't Pull the Plug on Afghanistan (23 December 2013)