Being neighbourly: India, China launch joint training programme for Afghan diplomats

By Elton Gomes

India and China jointly launched a programme on Monday to train 10 diplomats from Afghanistan. China’s ambassador has said that the programme could be followed by other joint programmes in various fields to help war-torn Afghanistan.

The Joint India-China Training Programme for Afghan diplomats will extend till October 26. It began as part of an understanding reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan.

A total of 10 Afghan diplomats began training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in New Delhi. The training began after an event wherein statements by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were read out by Indian and Chinese diplomats.

China’s Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui described India as a “regional major power”. He said that China and India can also team up under the mechanisms of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Bangladesh–China–India– Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM), to promote regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

“Both of us (China and India) support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. Both of us uphold that Afghanistan should realise peace, stability and prosperity. Both of us are against terrorism.

We are talking a lot about the regional connectivity initiatives, such as International North-South Transport Corridor, India-Afghanistan-Iran transit and trade arrangement and China-Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation. All of these have provided a solid foundation for the current and future cooperation between China and India in Afghanistan,” Luo said, PTI reported.

Swaraj’s statement was read out by FSI dean, Ambassador J.S. Mukul. In her statement, Swaraj said the seeds for joint cooperation in Afghanistan were sown during the meeting between PM Modi and President Xi in April 2018.

“Today, we see it blooming with the initiation of this training programme. This marks the beginning of what we visualise as a long term trilateral partnership for the benefit of Afghanistan,” PTI quoted Swaraj as saying.

First joint program between India and China

The Chinese ambassador said the joint training programme is the first step in China-India-Afghanistan co-operation.

“This is just the beginning. China and India have respective advantages. For example, India has remarkable edge in agriculture and medical services, and China in hybrid rice and poverty reduction,” the ambassador, Luo said in a speech, Reuters reported. ”I am sure that in the future days China-India cooperation in Afghanistan will span from training programme to more concrete projects.”

Modi and Xi agreed to amicably resolve long-standing political differences during their informal summit in China. The two leaders met months after India and China were on the brink of war owing to the standoff in Doklam.

China’s call for partnership comes a week after its embassy in said that New Delhi and Beijing should deepen their ties to battle trade protectionism. China has been said to be warming up to new allies after the Trump administration’s trade policies caused a rift between Beijing and Washington.

What does the co-operation mean

The cooperation between India and China is the first between the two nations who have long been locked in a battle for influence in a region stretching from Nepal to Sri Lanka and the island chain of the Maldives.

Within Afghanistan, India and the China have been on contrarian positions. China has relied on its old ally, Pakistan, as it attempts to stabilise Afghanistan by various means.

On the other hand, India has invested billions of dollars in economic projects and training of military officers in order to strengthen the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

AfghanistanChinaDiplomacyIndiaInternational relations