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Russia, China and US-Afghan pact

Russia has been constantly taunting Washington in the recent months about the latter’s plans to keep a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. China is also widely rumored to harbor similar views as Russia, but it kept its thoughts to itself. Russian foreign minister has been quite outspoken on the issue whereas his Chinese counterpart avoided public articulations on the subject. 

Thus, the Russian and Chinese reactions to the signing of the US-Afghan strategic pact in Kabul on Tuesday present a case study. Neither Moscow nor Beijing has uttered an official word yet. Of course, they don’t have to, since the US and Afghanistan are sovereign countries and strictly speaking, it is none of their business that Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai got together and put their signatures on a common document. But then, it is a silly argument, since the strategic pact is also about the fate of the ISAF mission, which indeed carries a United Nations mandate that was sanctioned by Russia and China along with the western troika in the Security Council.  
Meanwhile, Russian official media also kept mum about the historic development in Kabul. Xinhua, on the other hand, has come out with a commentary with Beijing dateline. The curious thing is that the commentary acknowledges that the US-Afghan strategic pact is “perceived as beginning a new chapter in US-Afghan relations and paving the way for a continued military presence central asia after NATO troops withdraw in 2014,” but it fails to offer a word of criticism about this development of immense consequence to the geopolitics of the region.
The commentary instead takes a detour to proceed to evaluate the prospects of the US’ strategy, the formidable challenges that lie ahead and it finally concludes that the strategic pact is “just the first step in the next stage of the US’ strategy for the region.” In a cooperative spirit, Xinhua offers some good advice as well as to how Washington could make its strategy work: “US should concentrate on plugging the loopholes in security and strive for a smooth transition leading up to the withdrawal of the NATO forces.”
Significantly, government newspaper China Daily also featured a commentary drawing attention to the US’ travails in dealing with Pakistan. It mocks at Pakistan’s claim that it knew not that Osama bin laden was living in Abbottabad all those years or that he begat two children in Pakistani hospitals. It underlines that Islamabad even went back on its word to conduct a decent, transparent enquiry about the bin Laden affair.
The commentary stops just short of calling the Pakistanis as liars and it somewhat commiserates with Uncle Sam’s plight that despite such manifest duplicity and doublespeak, Washington is still compelled to deal with that country because it has nuclear weapons and its role remains important in the fight against al-Qaeda. “Many believe Islamabad’s cooperation is essential for getting any Afghan deal to stick, allowing the US to withdraw troops.” Hey, is this the ‘all-weather friend’ speaking? Beijing seems to be marking its distance from the Pakistani shenanigans. To be sure, some food for thought. The China Daily commentary is here.    

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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4 Responses

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  1. Ramesh says

    stops just short of calling the Pakistanis as liars and it somewhat commiserates with Uncle Sam’s plight that despite such manifest duplicity and doublespeak, Washington is still compelled to deal with that country

    Osama was not invited by Pakistan, he was sent by USA with a specific agenda to be implemented in a particular manner. The psy-war technique of raising and motivating local warriors to become cannon fodder of war was chalked out with considerable sophistication, study and investment. The experiment was very successful and the purpose served, but thereafter the neglect to wind down the ops with care, led to threat of hydra proportions. It may suit Chinese commentators to appease US watchers, but the real motive may be merely a smokescreen, unlikely to be an objective or scientific understanding.

    Pakistan, undoubtedly had its axis to ground on its eastern front with India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, plus terror forays deep into India. But the civil democracy which found a new footing in their nation was on the defensive. Not only the survival of the government was at stake, it was the lives of the leaders itself at stake, even worse the democracy itself was at stake. It is kudos to the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan, and astute leadership of Indian politicians and officers, which has saved the day. Indian leaders acknowledged that Pakistan was itself as much a victim as it was a perpetrator of terror.

    The whittling down of terror, be it religious variety in Pakistan or the left revolutionary variety in India is an onerous task, and success seems more likely. The resolution of internal security threats in India and Pakistan, via superior understanding between the two nations, shall create conditions for lasting peace in Afghanistan as well. Further, may even bring relief from state inflicted terror in Tibet and Xinjiang in medium term.

    The enabler of such development is likely to be US policy framework, particularly annuling of old Dr Kissinger doctrine and replacing it with the Dr Rice doctrine. Which is shaping Indo-US policy in a manner which deploys Indian world-view as the prism to shape US policy perspectives for the region. The groundswell of trustworthy support and goodwill which shall then created would be most conducive for rapid lawful economic growth of the SAARC region which includes Afghanistan.

  2. Ramesh says

    development of immense consequence to the geopolitics of the region.

    In Indian drawing rooms (Living rooms) , typically when USA is discussed, the discussions are highly polarized. The ones more accepting and openly admiring of US are the non-politicized segment. While the politicized segment inclined towards Left highlight neo-imperial history while the ones imbued with religious righteousness are vehement about proselytization. However, almost everyone, except a mediocre fringe shaped by dated Western cold war propaganda, are well disposed towards Russia.

    The influence of quality Indo-Russian relations on Afghanistan, which has overwhelming consensus of Indian elites, can not be understated.

    The consequences of now dismembered Sino-US-Pak axis which led to Talibanisation of Afghan and spawning of terror under religious garb is evident to everyone. Presently it is Indo-Russian framework which facilitates access for ISAF to Afghanistan. Else, the ISAF forces would have been utterly defeated and Sino-Pak axis succeeded in extending itself to include Iran.

    The present intractable situation needs a newer kind of policy framework from US-EU nations. It is easy to make guests in Indian drawing rooms see reason, not easy though to influence sans substantive and real change.

  3. Ramesh says

    To be sure, some food for thought.

    From an Indian-American perspective, the two major post-N-deal foreign policy developments have been Maoist reconciliation for democracy in Nepal and emerging events in Burma. China it seems has felt pressured and may have sought to reinforce its vastly superior economic-strategic linkages with a nuanced policy on Pakistan, constricting its Iranian oil offtake on pretext of an innocent rationale, and coordinating its policy regarding Sudan, while negotiating with greater amplitude of leeway on Syria.

    It may sound like conspiracy theory, but the Chen episode may have served as a convenient low cost foil to sidetrack contentious development which would have gain some traction in the context of economic-strategic talks.

    The Chinese computations would certainly include matters like strategic parity before any bold moves can be initiated. The defensive nature of their current designs is no sign of weakness, instead is safeguarding of their vast gains with a mature and strategic mindset. They know time is on their side, and soon those contentious matters would be non-threat issues for China.

  4. jason ho says

    It looks like China is starting a season of bargaining with US, with a view to having the Americans easing its anti-China stance in South China Sea (Phillipines wouldn’t dare move a muscle against China if she has’nt got Uncle Sam’s unmistakable nod.). As far as the present leaders in China is concerned Central Asia is a serial TV shows that would last years and years while a worsen situation in South China Sea would istantly put the Chinese leaders in hot soup with their own people.

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