For the first time, Indian and China will be discussing in Beijing on Thursday on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops next year.
Both the sides hope to find a common cause in ensuring stability in the war-torn country so that there is minimal impact on their commercial interests.
Ministry of External Affairs additional secretary in-charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desk Y K Sinha is leading the Indian delegation at the talks. Afghanistan had featured in the talks on counter-terrorism last week in which the Indian side was led by MEA additional secretary Navtej Sarna.
In fact, New Delhi had been eager to talk to Beijing on Afghanistan for a long period to which the latter had some reservations. India had then hoped that the regional dialogues in central Asia and west Asia, which also touched on the neighbourhood issues, would make China more comfortable to talk about this critical matter, as China has been markedly increasing its presence in Afghanistan. In June 2012, China signed a strategic cooperative partnership with Afghanistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit.
Last September, Zhou Yongkang, member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee, visited Kabul, marking the first visit by a Chinese state leader in forty-six years. India will try to make ‘common cause’ with China over their big economic footprint, as both countries require stability in Afghanistan to ensure the exploitation of their commercial interests. China has stakes in a major copper mine as well oil blocks in Afghanistan, while an Indian consortium won the contract at the largest iron-ore mines in Hajigak.
The Chinese are also concerned that if there is instability after the withdrawal of forces, that could lead to creation of safe havens in Afghanistan for terror groups. While China has close ties with Pakistan, there are indications that the Beijing has been worried about Islamabad’s ability to rein in on Taliban and related terror networks in Afghanistan.