On 6 October 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, spoke to Dr. Pramod Jaiswal, Strategic Affairs Editor at Khabarhub on the role of Nepal in BIMSTEC and SAARC, in an analysis of the 17th BIMSTEC ministerial meetings. He also highlighted the role of SAARC and BIMSTEC in countering Chinese influence in the region.
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On September 24, the Quad leaders will attend the first in-person summit of the grouping in Washington DC. There is much to discuss for the four leaders, given recent developments: the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) security partnership and the EU's new Indo-Pacific strategy. The Quad also needs to focus on long term goals like institutionalising itself and devising a strategy to counter the China challenge.
China is rapidly expanding its influence in the Indian Ocean Region, as its massive investment in ports starts to materialise. From smaller investments of $78 million in Djibouti to large ones like $1.6 billion in Gwadar, these are funded largely by Chinese state-owned enterprises. This infographic shows the 17 ports being built by China, which are now important strategic, economic and political outposts for the country.
The Taliban’s rapid advance towards Kabul shows clear signs of learning from previous failures. The chances of a revival of the old Northern Alliance are minimal. Regional powers are left with the option of maintaining diplomatic contact with the Taliban whilst not taking any assurances on trust.
Three senior U.S. officials visited Asia in July in a well-choreographed diplomatic outreach strategy by the Biden administration. The U.S is willing to prioritise the Indo-Pacific and counter China. Asia cannot afford to be a reticent bystander.
For years, Western countries have used sanctions as a means of economic warfare against their adversaries. Now, China and Russia are utilising the same tactic against the West. The United Nations Security Council is paralysed by differences between the five permanent members, leaving the tools of unilateral sanctions and counter-sanctions to proliferate at the cost of UN-approved multilateral sanctions.
On 27 June 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House, chaired a session on Revitalizing SAARC and BIMSTEC. This was part of the Global Conclave 2021, hosted by the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), Kathmandu. Bhatia spoke about the present state, past trajectory and future challenges and opportunities for regional and sub-regional cooperation through SAARC and BIMSTEC.
As China’s global competitive edge is sharpening across the military, economic, diplomatic, and technological domains, it is clear that the extent to which the Quad countries (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) can collaborate across all four domains will be an important factor in determining whether China’s hegemonic designs on the Indo-Pacific will succeed.
The American decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan will strengthen the Afghan Taliban and possibly ensure its return to Kabul. This has implications for India’s security and economic interests in Afghanistan. India must step up its game by showing willingness to talk to the Taliban, while simultaneously expanding training assistance to the Afghan security forces.
The Taliban should have been reintegrated into Afghan society several years ago. It is now probably too late to persuade them to accept anything less than a dominant role in Kabul. However, Turkey, Pakistan and the United States may have one last chance to pressure the antagonists into a negotiated settlement, perhaps along the following lines.