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China eyes Afghan air bases, concerns for India

New Delhi: China has been eyeing to take control of air bases, including the Bagram air force base, in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the war-torn country, which could be detrimental for India’s security.

Expressing concerns, experts say this could be an attempt to keep India away from southeast Asia, where China wants to have complete control.

Reacting to the current development in Afghanistan, former diplomat Anil Trigunayat said the recent interview by Taliban’s spokesperson clearly said China would be their most important partner under the new Taliban-led Afghan government.

“China is trying to fill the vacuum created after the US forces left Afghanistan economically and gets its Belt and Road (BRI) initiatives going. That is going to happen soon as the Taliban needs somebody to manage the air bases there,” said Trigunayat.

The Bagram airport is the biggest airport and technically well equipped as the Americans kept it for their use till the end instead of the Kabul airport.

Both China and Taliban under the new strategic partnership will likely jointly manage the Bagram air base as China needs to have a secure air base when they will increase its economic plans in Afghanistan.

As far as the matter concerning China supporting Pakistan against India, Trigunayat said this has been the reality since long, it has been happening even now. China has always used its veto power to protect dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Masood Azhar when India was working to declare him as an international terrorist.

“Our worry is China, not Pakistan, which is a tool in the hands of China, and they use it to keep India away from Southeast Asia,” he added.

West Asia expert Qamar Agha also agrees that China has been mulling for a bigger role in Afghanistan because of its economic interests and with the huge investment plans they aim to control a factionalised government, which will be formed on Friday.

“China has always supported Pakistan for arms, military equipment and has been providing the financial aid to Pakistan and now apprehensions are that it will push Pakistan to engage into a proxy war against India so that it will not face any challenge near the China sea and adjoining areas,” Agha said.

The former US diplomat to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday warned that the US needs to closely watch China as it might try to take over the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the war-torn country and use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India.

“We need to watch China because I think you are going to see China make a move for Bagram Air Force base. I think they are also making a move in Afghanistan and trying to use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India. So, we have got a lot of issues,” she said.

Haley also said it was time that US President Joe Biden’s administration reached out to its key friends and allies like India, Japan and Australia and assured them that the US would guard their backs.