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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony in Beijing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The Emerging India-China Competition in Afghanistan

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021

For much of the past couple of decades, Afghanistan has been a rare exception to the strategic competition between India and China in South Asia. New Delhi never believed it could be the preeminent power in Afghanistan, unlike in other nearby countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal. Following the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, India was happy to engage with Kabul under Washington’s security umbrella, while taking solace in China’s initial unwillingness to get more involved. A joint desire for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan even seemed to raise the possibility of cooperation between the two rivals.

But with India now recalibrating its China policy due to the recent military standoff along the two countries’ disputed border in the Himalayas, prospects for the two countries’ cooperation in Afghanistan are unlikely to materialize anytime soon. And with the U.S. withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan while regional powers jostle for greater influence there, India will be more concerned about China’s role in Afghanistan than at any point in the past. ...

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