Chinese ‘Shuttle Diplomacy” and reasons why it cannot bring peace to Afghanistan

By June 29, 2017World Affairs

In recent times, there has been a buzz in International Relations as China has put a foot forward in implementing ‘Shuttle Diplomacy’ to bring peace to Afghanistan. ‘Shuttle Diplomacy’ is a method used by a third-party intermediary to garner peace between two fighting states. As it involves a lot of travelling by the third party between the two principal rivals, hence the name ‘Shuttle Diplomacy’. But there are many reasons why this interception by China won’t work in Afghanistan.

What is the conflict in Afghanistan?

Ever since the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1970s, it has not seen a day of peace. I am not implying that the Russians are to blame for this mayhem completely, but it did initiate a series of events which saw one of the most violent chapters in history. During the time when Russia invaded Afghanistan, America was at the height of paranoia that every country in the world might be converted to Communism. In this mad run, the US even armed the Mujahideens in Afghanistan through Pakistan’s ISI. It was this group of Mujahideens who later became the Taliban, the biggest thorn in USA’s foot. Even the world’s most wanted man Osama Bin Laden spent time in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and contributed several warriors from Al-Qaeda to fight with the group.

Ever since the attack on Twin towers on 9/11, America launched a full-scale war on Al-Qaeda and any group supporting it. Though, I have never understood how Taliban became a target, as Afghanistan never had any role in any attack on American soil. Though, Afghanistan does serve as a perfect base for US geographically, in close vicinity to China. But it’s the global war on terror, so who are we to comment? The war in Afghanistan has carried on for more than 15 years though no major progress has ever been made. In addition, we have a new actor in the form of the Islamic State, 10 times more violent and vindictive than the Taliban.

 

What is the current situation?

As it is common sense to choose the lesser evil, that is exactly what is happening in Afghanistan. ISIS has made the Taliban look like a saint and now China and Pakistan want to engage the group in talks to garner peace in the war-torn nation. The biggest issue with this approach is that local Afghan residents cannot accept Taliban leaders holding government posts. The wounds of the war are still fresh in people’s minds. There was a time when Taliban ruled Afghanistan in late 1990s, and women were not even allowed outside their houses, men had to keep a beard always, no entertainment was allowed in households etc.

Now China wants to walk into Afghanistan, act like a seasoned negotiator and compromise peace with Taliban to fight the Islamic State. But why is China so interested in Afghanistan at all? The answer is very simple – China wants to complete its several projects including CPEC, OBOR to revive the ages old Silk Road and connect to Central Asia. And obviously without peace in Afghanistan, none of this is possible. But again, what about groups like Northern Alliance and Afghan soldiers who have fought Taliban for decades? It will be a massive moral defeat for them if Taliban can enter mainframe politics.

So what is the solution?

Afghanistan is a complicated war zone, especially with the advent of Islamic State. Its cruelty has been witnessed by the whole world and it won’t be long before its affects are visible in South Asia as well. As for Afghanistan, its people have seen decades of violence and destruction, may it be by the Russians, the Taliban or even the Americans. To have a successful negotiation, all groups need to be on the table and Taliban must disarm completely and merge with the Afghan forces. Though, this task is much easier said than done. As I earlier mentioned, the wounds of war cannot be healed so quickly and the hatred cannot dissipate suddenly. Though, ISIS could prove to be a blessing in disguise to bring the Taliban and the common populace together against a common enemy. That said, even the Talibs need to shed their archaic ideology of Sharia and be open to the new form of society. And this can only be done by the Afghans themselves, and not the Chinese. Hence, the coming days are very crucial in deciding whether Afghanistan moves towards long term peace, or yet another year of fruitless fighting.