New Delhi: The Taliban regime recognises that there is a great amount of goodwill among the Afghan people towards India, and wants to tap into it, former ambassador to Tajikistan and Philippines Yogendra Kumar said Wednesday.
“The Taliban welcomed Indian (humanitarian) assistance even when it was given during the previous government. In one way, they recognise that there is a tremendous amount of goodwill among the Afghan people for all that India has done there and they want to tap into that goodwill,” said Kumar, speaking at a webinar hosted by the Institute of China Studies, titled ‘India, China, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Regional Geopolitics’.
The webinar revolved around India’s engagement with the SCO and Afghanistan, and how it will balance this alongside its Indo-Pacific agenda. ThePrint was the digital partner for the event.
Founded in June 2001 and headquartered in Beijing, the SCO aims to ensure security and maintain stability across the Eurasian region. Its member states include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Iran has joined the organisation earlier this month.
‘Growing resentment among Central Asian nations towards China’
Happymon Jacob, associate professor of diplomacy and disarmament studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, who was also part of the panel, explained that China intends to use the SCO to promote issues like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the international level.
The BRI seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa, in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes.
“Beijing will seek to use the SCO as a vehicle for promoting BRI. And for the moment, it seems to be succeeding,” said Jacob.
Yogendra Kumar noted that while there is no backlash from Central Asian countries against BRI, resentment is definitely growing.
“More so, it (resentment towards BRI) gets combined with the Xinjiang situation, where some Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Tajiks are in (China’s) detention camps,” he said.
Since 2019, China has come under scrutiny for its treatment of Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, in Xinjiang province, and allegedly detaining people in internment camps. Muslim ethnic minority groups like Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Kazakhs have also been been subjected to alleged inhumane conditions.
Neighbouring countries like Kazakhstan have seen spurts of protests in which demonstrators demanded the release of detainees, some of whom were their relatives.
‘India should work with Russia to pursue interests at SCO’
According to Jacob, the SCO will try to fill the power vacuum left by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. He also noted that the grouping has “anti-American streaks”, which will only grow.
This will be tricky for India, which is an SCO member and is now a close ally of the US. But he had a suggestion for New Delhi.
“There is some resentment in Russia about the Chinese hegemonic behaviour in its neighbourhood. I think New Delhi would do well to use its relationship with Russia to pursue its interests at the SCO,” Jacob said.
(Edited by Rachel John)