Six experts from India, China and the USA discussed the socio-political situation in Afghanistan and how international cooperation between the three countries could be further developed in relation to Afghanistan, on September 23 at India International Center in New Delhi.
Dr. Wang Shida explained how each of the three countries had common interests in the region in terms of geopolitical perspective as well as the anti-terrorism factor. He noted how USA has spent over a trillion dollars in the war in the region and has lost many soldiers, and that the USA wants to withdraw, but withdraw with dignity. India is interested due to security reasons and the terror groups in the region that affect the Indian subcontinent too. He pointed out how China is the only direct neighbour out of the three countries and therefore has interest in not only safeguarding its borders, but that the terror groups in Afghanistan pose a severe threat to China as well. He emphasised on how Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and as a result is a potential strategic location for immense economic cooperation between the three countries.
Various areas of cooperation were mentioned such as providing scholarships to students from Afghanistan, how China could provide technical and vocational skills in the region, as well as how Afghanistan and India could be linked through railways. Recently, in October 2018, India and China launched a joint training program for Afghan diplomats.
Former Ambassador Amar Sinha pointed out that there will soon be only one major threat from Afghanistan to India, and that is the Afghanistan cricket team. He pointed out how the Chinese could push the promotion of sports in the region, but warned them that Afghanistan even have their own Bruce Lee (Abbas Alizada), so China should keep a look out.
Ironically, there was no one from Afghanistan in the panel of experts. This was pointed out by Amb. Gautam Mukhopadhaya. Gautam Mukhopadhaya also pointed out how security in Afghanistan is being mentored by powers who themselves have not been successful in controlling tensions in the region. He also noted how it costs America as much as six times the amount to train Afghan security forces, as compared to the amount India spends on providing similar training in the subcontinent.
It was also noted by all the experts that during the recent elections in Afghanistan, over four million people participated, signifying a positive step towards people wanting to see progress in the region and be a part of the much needed change. Interestingly, out of around 3,000 candidates who took part in the elections, 500 women also competed. It was also noted how women enrollment in education in the region has drastically improved in the past fifteen years – from a few hundred to seven lakh.
Story is based on written notes taken by the author during the conversation.