The eyes in Beijing and Moscow are focused on Central Asia, which was caused by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
According to Emil Avdaliani, director of Middle East Studies at the Georgian think tank Geocase, the threat to security in Afghanistan and the desire to close Central Asia away from other powers such as the United States are prompting Beijing and Moscow to cooperate and gloss over their differences. …
“They deliberately avoid forming an alliance because this, as Moscow and Beijing argue, would rather limit their foreign policy than create better conditions for coordination,” Avdaliani told Voice of America.
According to Avdaliani, while China is an economic power in the Central Asian region, Russia plays a greater role as a guarantor of security.
In the three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Beijing’s gradual engagement with Central Asian countries has focused on the economic front with public investment in hydrocarbons, mining, pipeline construction, transportation, power generation and, more recently, industrialization. non-energy fields. China has also established security coordination with regional powers through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Chief Security Defender
Moscow was the dominant security partner for countries in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization and was the largest arms supplier. Russia remains the main defender of Central Asia’s security, accounting for 62 percent of the regional arms market, while its economic dominance fell from 80 percent of the region’s total trade in the 1990s ($ 110 billion) to just two-thirds. from Beijing’s indicator ($ 18.6). billion).
“Recently, there has been a trend towards China becoming a security player as well,” Avdaliani told Voice of America. “First, there are reports of a Chinese military base in Tajikistan and possibly some security presence in northern Afghanistan. China is also increasingly participating in military exercises with Central Asian states. “
Beijing’s arms transfers in the form of donations and sales to countries in the region such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were modest until 2014. Since this year, China has increased its arms shipments to the region, according to a report from the Wilson Center. year.
In 2016, China built its Tajik military outpost with facilities in the mountainous province of Gorno Badakhshan near the Afghan border.
Other neighboring countries
In addition to Russia, China has cooperated with Pakistan and Iran, countries bordering Central Asia, and which have economic, political interests and interests in the region.
Another regional power is India, which, like China, seeks to maintain security in Afghanistan. India worries about the spread of insurgents into the disputed territory of Kashmir, which borders Afghanistan.
“Beijing is undoubtedly the dominant power in Central Asia, and India is likely to lose some of the influence it enjoyed in Kabul as a result of the substantial assistance it provided before the US left,” said Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute. at Columbia University.
Cooley told VOA that China’s relations with India were strained due to border clashes and India’s joining the four-way strategic grouping.
The grouping, also known as QUAD, is a strategic dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia that involves coordination and cooperation between member countries, all of which have strained relations with China.
Sino-Russian Security Agenda
Cooley said the security agendas of Beijing and Moscow are complementary and mutually agreeable as each views the region as the key to its own security and does not want the United States back.
“Russia is concerned about potential instability on the borders of Central Asia, maintaining security cooperation with the Central Asian states and curbing the influx of refugees into Eurasia,” Cooley told Voice of America. “China is primarily concerned with the Taliban suppressing Uyghur groups living close to the border and securing the Afghan and Tajik borders with Xinjiang.”
However, Cooley said Russia may be unhappy with the recent strengthening of China’s security zone in Central Asia – including a military facility in Tajikistan, expanded military exercises with Central Asian states, surveillance technologies “transferred” to Central Asian cities, and increased activity from outside. Chinese private security companies will help protect Belt and Road infrastructure projects.
“But the two countries have every reason to reject talk of ‘competition’ and emphasize their joint opposition to US hegemony and the US-led liberal international order,” Cooley said.