Use the Afghanistan mess to mess with China in East Turkestan

Kalashnikov-toting turbanators taking control?

In a punitive mood after the Islamic extremists whom the US had carefully nurtured and who, in the guise of the Al-Qaeda led by a one time CIA operative Osama bin Laden turned on their American masters and spectacularly brought down the trade towers in New York city and nearly finished off the Pentagon as well in Washington on 11 September 2001, the then US President George W Bush launched US forces to take out the medievalist regime of the one-eyed Mullah Omar in Afghanistan.

I had predicted then the Americans would be there for a while, but would be beaten black and blue and bundled out by the Taliban. 20 years later that prediction has come true.

Once again, and as is their wont, the US expeditionary forces showed as much punch as a bunch of pansies, running away from a fight as they had done from Saigon when between the Viet Cong guerillas and the People’s Army of Vietnam under the generalship of the legendary Nguyen Von Giap, US MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) was stomped into mulch, the last of the American troops and consular officials helicoptering out off the roof of the US embassy in end-April 1975.

Military defeat is the most wrenching of national experiences. The Chinese smash down in the 31-day Himalayan War 60 years ago (20 Oct-21 November 1962) so dented the image and reputation of the Indian army, it has still to fully recover from it. The Pakistan army, likewise, remains unreconciled to a sheepish-looking General AAK “Tiger” Niazi surrendering his pistol along with 93,000 troops in East Pakistan to General Jagjit Singh Aurora at the race course in Dhaka on 16 December 1971.

Military defeat cannot be masked. Or covered up. Or denied. The former US President Donald Trump’s sometime National Security Adviser, John Bolton, tried to do all three and, predictably, ended up sounding like a blithering idiot. With the last of the US forces decamping in C-130s in the dead of night, July 1, from the Bagram air base in Kabul, this shameful final act of cowardice and lily liveredness was sought to be explained away by Bolton. He claimed with a straight face on CNN that “We weren’t defeated. You have to be defeated to lose a war. We’ve given up because we’ve lost patience.”

Losing patience, walking away, from a war the US started, are synonyms for the American forces being pounced on and pummelled into submission — a result all the more stark considering the $1,200 Billion US spent in Afghanisan over the past two decades in a failing venture, before finally being run out of a country whose people, unlike Indians in India, have historically not taken kindly to foreigners tresspassing into their country. The humiliation at the hands of a scruffy band of sandal-wearing, Kalashnikov-toting, turbanators will be difficult for the US to live down. One thing is certain though, in the aftermath of their twin military fiascos in Iraq and now Afghanistan, Americans will not be sallying forth on a new military adventure any time soon.

And this is the US and the American military the Narendra Modi government is happy to outsource India’s strategic security against China to?!!

Still, with the Yanks out of Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan National Forces (ANF) hanging on for dear life at least in Kabul and the other cities, which uptill now have been spared the Taliban rush, New Delhi has to be clear-minded about its aims and surefooted in crafting a policy that will serve India’s national interests in the short, medium and long term.

Kabul is an invaluable prize for the taliban for a reason — the capital with all the embassies and international presence will legitimize its rule; without it, Taliban are only another set of pretenders. Washington has said a violent takeover of Kabul and other cities by the Taliban will lead to the US withholding diplomatic recognition. This is the reason why the loose Taliban High Command has tried to be reassuring about its behaviour once in power this time around — though the actions of its foot soldiers in the areas it has occupied have increased apprehensions about that country being pushed back into the dark ages — with the girl child imperilled, women’s rights suspended, and music and colourful garments attracting Taliban lashes, when not worse.

The pivotal issue is how long and credibly the ANF can keep up its morale and fight the Taliban surge that swept through 85% of the Afghan countryside. The July 16 incident in Dawlatabad in northwestern Balkh province where a 22-strong ANF Special Force element who, after putting up a valiant fight until their ammo ran out, tried to surrender only to have the Taliban, not conversant with Geneva Conventions or other niceties of war, simply line them up and shoot them down in cold blood. This along with the Taliban edicts to women to go into purdah and the men to not smoke or shave, will do one of two things. It could steel the hearts and the nerves of ANA commanders who with their troops are deployed in and around Kabul and in the 34 provincial capitals, into deciding they would rather risk an honourable battle and go down fighting than meet a dog’s death. Or, they may take a chance on the Talibans’ mercy and heed their call to surrender. In either case, the probability of the Ghani government surviving is problematic. Unless, and this is the big if, ANF holds on to Kabul and successfully repels waves of Taliban onslaught. There’s enough ammo and artillery shells with the ANF to do so in the short and medium term. Some eight Indian Air Force C-17 sorties to Kabul in the recent past, each with 40 tons of military supplies, will have increased the ANF stock of ample prepositioned stores the US left behind on its rapid exit out of the country.

The Afghan ambassador in Delhi, Farid Mamundzay, said the Ghani government and the ANF have an advantage in two decisive respects. It has some 400,000 troops and more than adequate military stores of all kinds, as against only 70,000 in the Taliban ranks. And they have air power which the Taliban don’t. Whence his request to India for help in augmenting the ANF’s helicopter force. 35-40 attack hepters, he thinks, would do the trick and he hopes other than India, the US and Russia will respond with transfer of these fighting whirlybirds. There may be a problem with this reading of the situation. The American forces with excess of everything, especially air power, failed to leave much of a mark on the Taliban. How can an ANF armed hepter fleet of 40 some aircraft make any real difference? Besides, what’s to prevent the Taliban from periodically blunting this edge by mounting attacks on city air fields like the one that a fortnight back destroyed two Blackhawk hepters on the ground in Kunduz? Or, intensifying their new tactic of assasinating helicopter pilots with the ANF?

But Ambassador Mamundzay is absolutely right in identifying the US, Russia and India as the three countries that can prevent the Taliban from taking over the country by sustaining an arms supply line. Moreover, under cover of the US forces marshalling its forces in the area, Russia is strengthening its military presence in the adjoining Central Asian states under the aegis of the Collective Security Organization (CSO). The Central Asian governments are worried about a backwash from a Taliban takeover of Kabul and Afghanistan, and how they’d have to deal with Islamic extremism. So should a future Taliban dispensation in Kabul turn rogue, the CSO states would be happy to be part of a corrective action.

Actively courting the ire of the US, Russia and India, could place the taliban in a no-win situation. Taliban targets can be directly reached by US, Russian, and IAF strike aircraft rounding over the Gulf and staging out of their Farkhor base in Tajikistan. This is the reason why I have pleaded for a long time for a fully provisioned IAF forward placement of a Su-30 squadron at Farkhor. Indian, American and Russian air strikes can take a heavy toll on the Taliban morale and its barebones logistics chain set up for them and, for some time, even managed by the Pakistan ISI. It can, for instance, prevent them from concentrating their war materiel and numbers for concerted attacks on major cities, in particular Kabul. This is what US air power essentially achieved.

The trick for the Indian government is to continue playing on both sides. India can promise more development aid and infrastructure construction assistance to the Taliban. Further, Indian intel agencies have had productive contacts over the years with certain factions of the Taliban. Because the Taliban operate in discrete fashion, each faction in effect fighting its own subregional war for supremacy, it is not that difficult to act against some factions inimical to Indian interests without alienating the friendly ones. And because of the transactional nature of relationships with the Taliban, even the not so friendly sections can be won over by money and other considerations. Pakistani media is full of reports and commentaries suggesting the Indian support and subsidy for the Tehreeq-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) means Delhi holds a whiphand and can destabilize Pakistan at any time.

The ideal solution of course is for an inclusive coalition Afghan government that the Taliban have talked around without giving a clear yes or no answer in the various talks held in peace forums from Doha, Istanbul to Moscow. The Taliban obviously believe thay can wait out the Ghani regime and the patience of its external supporters, in the hopes of Kabul and other cities falling into their lap without a fight. In the meanwhile, they have strategically this time, prioritised the taking over of the main roads, check posts and entry points into Afghanistan.

The Taliban have already captured the border posts over the Amu Darya River connecting Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They realized how because these routes remained in enemy hands, certain western and north western provinces became hotbeds of resistance that the Taliban, when they were in government last, were never able to quell. Thus, the Tajik Ahmed Shah Masood ruled the Panjshir Valley and Colonel Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, with his 20,000-strong complement of ethnic fighters, was a spoiler. So, this time, not wanting to repeat the past, the Taliban have first overrun all border areas and main crossing centres with Tajikistan (Sher Khan Bandar, Panj River) , the Badhgis border with Turkmenistan, Islam Qala in the Herat province fronting on Iran, and the Wakhan corridor facing China.

The Durand Line on the Khyber and across the lower length of Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan is Taliban’s own play ground. Islamabad and GHQ, Rawalpindi, are rightfully worried that working in conjunction with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban, after pacifying the rest of their country and taking Kabul, will realize the old Afghan dream of regaining for Afghanistan its traditional border before the British Raj annexed the territory upto the Marghala Hills in Islamabad. That will be an unexpected denouement to the Independent Pakhtunistan problem! With the Baloch insurgent movements, moreover, operating out of southwestern Afghanistan and the secessionist movement in Balochistan on the boil, the emerging situation is fraught with the utmost danger for Pakistan.

This is where strategic good sense needs to inform India’s Afghanistan decisions. Delhi can play the old game of tightening the pincer on Pakistan — Baloch National Movement, Balochistan Liberation Army, et al, on one side and the Afghan Taliban-TTP on the other side. This will fetch small returns.

Or, it should opt to do the wise thing to subserve India’s metastrategic interests — use the back channel with Islamabad to, in return for Pakistan government settling on a Kashmir solution with the LOC as international border — loosened for to- and fro- movement by Kashmiris on either side, incentivizing, motivating and materially supporting the Afghan Taliban and TTP (away from Pakistan) and against Godless Communist China, and towards liberating fellow Muslim Uyghurs of East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and helping them throw off the Chinese yoke. The mountainous Wakhan Corrdor as Taliban guerilla war staging area is almost too perfect for this purpose. It is an enterprise that will have wide support of just about every country that wants to pull China down a peg or two and otherwise help that aggressive Communist state to implode, and which category includes, the US, Russia, most European countries and almost all Asian states.

Pakistan is small fry. Please Think and Act Big and real Strategic, Modiji. You can task your NSA Ajit Doval, with this his biggest Game.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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46 Responses to Use the Afghanistan mess to mess with China in East Turkestan

  1. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Mr. Sankar posted the following as part of his latest comment on the previous post;

    “At the time of independence, India as a successor of the British Dominion of India inherited the “security treaty” with Tibet for protection. When China started its invasion, the Tibetan authorities fell back on Delhi for protection on the basis of that treaty, but India reneged”

    Dalai Lama fled to India and has wasted his life staying in India.

    The Indian government hasn’t done anything for the Tibetan cause expecting India to do something for Xinjiang’s cause is akin to an income less slum dweller fantasizing about a top movie actress.

    • Gaurav Tyagi@ — Partially true. India in 1949 is not the same as India today, it has the wherewithal and the resources. Will is lacking.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Professor Karnad- And this ‘will’ be forever lacking because both bureaucrats as well as politicians in India are risk averse.

        The establishment wishes to maintain the status quo because it suits them to milk the system for their own benefit.

      • Chatur Chamar says:

        The problem in India and with Indian is lack of initiative and thinking always to play safe.
        Let some thousands die in Afghanistan and declare the world that India is a force to reckon with.

        Without sacrifice no glory is achieved.

      • Sankar says:

        Here is a penetrating analysis by Lt Gen Panag in the context:

        “The happenings in Eastern Ladakh since May 2020 are buried under obfuscation and false narrative of the government and the military, both complementing each other to cover up political, strategic and tactical failures. . …

        Any objective study of 1962 should have highlighted the strategic nature of the 1959 Claim Line. Unless we militarily alter the status on the ground, Daulat Beg Oldi Sector and areas northeast of Pangong Tso will remain defensively untenable in war.”

  2. Amit says:

    Pakistan has been in a hybrid war with India since independence, interjected with actual wars in between. It has been trying to break apart India since 1947. Instead it got broken. China is at this game too now causing all kinds of trouble in the north east and supporting Pakistan against India and doing all the other things it is doing with neighbors of India. Indian strategy should in return be to win this hybrid war against both Pakistan and China. I believe peace with Pakistan is only possible if there is a threat of its breaking apart further. So fully support your comments about applying pincer pressure from Afghanistan and Balochistan, leveraging Iran in Shia regions in Afghanistan, partnering with Russia where possible in Afghanistan, and playing to win against Pakistan. This will weaken Pakistan further and is possibly the only way to make peace with them. This Will also weaken China in its war with India. And we should have a clear strategy to subvert China as much as possible – Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, etc. This is also the only way India can make peace with China. But China is a much bigger power- so India has to also address its internal inefficiencies. We are in a state of hybrid war with both Pakistan and China. And we have to fight to win.

  3. Rajinder Verma says:

    Plausible! India needs to Checkmate China, of that there is little doubt !!

  4. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    “It is an enterprise that will have wide support of just about every country that wants to pull China down a peg or two and otherwise help that aggressive Communist state to implode”

    China is communist just in name. The place is a dictatorship under the present Chinese Emperor, Xi Jinping.

    I am settled in China and have travelled widely across the length and breadth of the country. The country’s infrastructure, general law/order and quality of life is way ahead of India.

    It’s a society characterized by high degree of consumption and materialism.

    The surveillance system (CCTV etc) are deployed at every nook and corner. If anyone believes that breaking China is easy that person is living in a fool’s paradise.

    Majority of Chinese citizens are too scared to even discuss politics. Expecting them to rise up against their regime is and will remain a fantasy.

    • Amit says:

      There is no doubt China is a strong state. But so was the USSR and look what happened to it. China’s behaviour since XI Jinping took over is inciting strong opposition in multiple countries. It’s tensions with the US are at an all time high, with India at an all time high, and with Australia at an all time high. It’s relations with the UK and Canada are not so great, and there is growing distrust also in the EU. Many African states look at China with distrust and even its so called allies are wary of it (Russia). Even in ASEAN there are states that would love to hedge against China. The situation is dynamic and fluid, but opposition to China is building across many parts of the world.

      With India, China is in a state of hybrid war. Just like Pakistan has been for much longer. It does not look like China’s wolf warrior diplomacy will stop any time soon. Expect the rest of the world to get more united in its opposition to China. The Chinese did very well to make their state a strong state. But with united global opposition, they cannot take themselves for granted. China is a very different case from the USSR. They are highly integrated economically with many of their top adversaries and they do not export their ideology. But there are many consequential countries that do not like the Chinese and their opposition to them will take a form that is yet to be seen. This story is still being written.

  5. By email from Joydeep Sircar:
    Joydeep Sircar
    bharat karnad

    Sun, 18 July at 9:51 am

    Very well written, except for your wistful hope of settling the LOC with Pakistan. It is enough if we create a situation where the Pak Army keeps it quiet.

    It is true that our friendship with the other mangy cowardly cur, the USA, is not going to help us much, but they make good if expensive weaponry which we can put to good use. My personal view is France and Russia should be cultivated assiduously, as lndia is doing now.

    Where we have gone seriously wrong is in Sri Lanka, which is becoming a fine lndian Ocean base for China, ideally poised to interdict our ocean traffic. Failure to invade the North-East in the guise of restoring peace and carving out a separate state under the protection of our forces, as Russia has done to Ukraine, may cost us dear. But then, our brahminical heritage has always made us behave like castrati.

  6. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Bezos founded Blue Origin back in 2000, with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.

    An excerpt from the following article;

    Humans are heading towards the scenario depicted in this film;

    The poor masses will be left on Earth. A planet, which has been destroyed by pollution, climate change not to mention umpteen number of Corona type viruses ravaging the planet plus hundreds of more deadly mutations to come in future.

    The elites of the world will enjoy the show of death and despair from their comfortable/luxurious abodes in space.

  7. Deepak says:

    Sir,your advice to Modi “Please Think and Act Big and real Strategic, Modiji” may not work as Modi never takes healthy criticism seriously, always takes decisions to please the West and his detractors like tukde tukde gang to showcase him as a big hearted liberal secular world leader. Impotent leadership is really big disappointment for nationalists like me who had hoped that a big leader had emerged who will change the destiny of this country. But it has turned out to be only wishful thinking. If you go by past experience, Modi has betrayed Baluch freedom struggle which he mentioned in his 2016 Red Fort speech but afterwards did nothing for Baloch freedom struggle. All neighbors — Srilanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh are under Chinese influence, no positive result has been delivered in Afghanistan. Russia is pro-China. The US is not trustable. The Pak-China policy is tit for tat only if you still expect Modi will do something big strategically; otherwise it is just wishful thinking.

  8. Greetings/Salaam Mr. Karnad,

    1. ||| “Islamabad and GHQ, Rawalpindi, are rightfully worried that working in conjunction with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban, after pacifying the rest of their country and taking Kabul, will realize the old Afghan dream of regaining for Afghanistan its traditional border before the British Raj annexed the territory upto the Marghala Hills in Islamabad. That will be an unexpected denouement to the Independent Pakhtunistan problem!” |||

    Sir, the ‘chaos’ and ‘worry’ along the Durand line are manufactured and not spontaneous. There are factions within the national security establishment in Islamabad that are competing against each other through information warfare.

    Some would like to see a continued International presence in the region to balance Chinese and Russian influence around Pakistan’s periphery; whereas, others are prepared to complete strategic abandonment of Washington in favor of the SCO/CPEC architecture.

    Moreover, if any dispensation in Kabul rejects the Durand line and tries to actively undermine it, there is no guarantee that it would necessarily move eastwards. It could move in the opposite direction as well.

    Additionally, Panjshiri Tajiks and Uzbeks will NEVER accept a Pashtun nationalist muscle-flexing.

    The traditional Persianized Khorasanian undercurrent is intense within the present Afghan borders. Pashtu is NOT the most spoken language in Afghanistan.

    If Pashtuns reject the Durand line then Dari speaking Panjshiri Tajiks would likewise reject their frontier with Tajikistan. The Uzbeks and the Turkmen would also do the same; they too would like to join with their co-ethnics.

    In other words, irredentist Pashtun Nationalism and Afghanistan can’t exist simultaneously.

    There is a reason why the Taliban keeps the Sunni Hanafi tradition paramount and does not flaunt its majority Pashtun aspect too much.

    2. ||| “This is where strategic good sense needs to inform India’s Afghanistan decisions. Delhi can play the old game of tightening the pincer on Pakistan — Baloch National Movement, Balochistan Liberation Army, et al, on one side and the Afghan Taliban-TTP on the other side.” |||

    Sir, would Tehran permit New Delhi to create any such disturbance on its southeastern borders?

    3. ||| “…incentivizing, motivating and materially supporting the Afghan Taliban and TTP (away from Pakistan) and against Godless Communist China, and towards liberating fellow Muslim Uyghurs of East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and helping them throw off the Chinese yoke. The mountainous Wakhan Corrdor as Taliban guerilla war staging area is almost too perfect for this purpose.” |||

    Sir, the above text hints that India can match China in resources. Is it really the case? I don’t think so. It will be tough for New Delhi.

    From across the Radcliffe line.

    • Muhammad Izadi@ — regarding your last point: Covert assistance to the Talibs (ex-Pakistan, ex-Afghanistan) to operate
      in East Turkestan does not require a parity of resources with China. The Pakistan ISI’s working with the CIA to spring the “Bear trap” on the Russian occupation forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s is the classic example of such covert ops. (The CIA’s contribution in terms of supplying war materiel, such as the shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missile and theatre intel to the mujahideen, was relatively speaking less decisive than ISI’s contribution.)

      • San Mann says:

        Prof Karnad,
        What about the sudden new involvement of Turkey in Afghan politics? Erdogan is now issuing public calls to Taliban to stand down and abandon their military offensives. I bet Imran & Pakistan never counted on that happening. It seems that Turkey moving to make inroads into Afghanistan via their connectivity route thru Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Turkey’s recent involvement in Azerbaijan’s with Armenia indicates an eastward push by Erdogan’s govt. Cash-strapped Turkey may see opportunities for itself in the region. Should we not open up feelers to the Turks and see if they’re amenable to cooperation? Remember that the Uighurs are a Turkic people (East Turkestan). And don’t the Turks have a greater claim to representing the Caliphate than the fake wanna-be Caliphate of the Taliban? Turkey is also a key NATO member, thus allowing a new front for Western power projection against China’s westward thrust with BRI.

      • San Mann@ — The ethnic connection you mention is what’s fuelling Erdogan’s Central Asian ambitions and also Turkey’s potential as mediator of the Uyghur cause with China. Ankara’s initiatives — offering itself as guardian of the Kabul international airport, for instance — in Afghanistan, are more intriguing.

      • @ Mr. San Mann & @ Mr. Bharat Karnad

        Turkey’s ‘Turkish’ bona fides are suspicious. ‘Anatolian Turks’ have descended from Byzantine Romans and Greeks. They now speak a Turkish dialect but that doesn’t make them ethnically Turkish. Algerians and some Berbers also speak fluent French but that doesn’t make them Germanic Franks.

        Likewise, Azeris are culturally and ethnically more Iranic than Turkic.

        The Central Asian Republics resent Ankara’s patronizing attitude. Moreover, this region too is more Persianized in its history than Turkic.

        In short, ‘Pan-Turkism’ will always be a non-starter.

        The question that one should ask: Why is Uzbek-warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum in Turkey and NOT in his ancestral nation, Uzbekistan? The ‘medical treatment’ thing appears to be a smokescreen.

      • San Mann says:

        Prof Karnad,
        This sudden arrival of Turkey’s Erdogan as a player in the new Great Game that’s shaping up, seems destined to trip up Pakistan’s perennial too-clever-by-half plans. Thusfar, we’ve seen Turkey’s Erdogan and Pakistan’s Imran Khan showcasing their amity and bonhomie along with their public paeans to the common cause of greater pan-Islamism. And yet, when it comes to sharing wealth and treasure, there is no honour among thieves. So Afghanistan seems destined to be intensely tussled over yet again. With Turkey’s Europeanized brand of Islam looking less harsh than Pakistan’s crude Taliban wahabbism, will Afghanistan’s recent newer generation gravitate more towards Turkey, after having grown up in the past couple of decades without Taliban’s theocracy? Turkey would also serve as a useful catspaw for NATO & the West, in spearheading the emancipation of fellow Turkic people’s of the east, in the face of this Sino-Pakistani juggernaut. What will happen to Pak-Turkish relations now? And how will China & Pak deal with this challenge?

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      India can greatly annoy China just by doing the following two;

      1. Recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.
      2. Start raising Tibet issue aggressively at every international forum.

      Both these steps doesn’t require any great monetary expenses but no political party, politician in India has the guts/courage to do the afore mentioned.

  9. Sir, I have been following your articles for quite some time and most of the times,I feel, your observations and suggestions are practical.

    But here, you say that use the taliban to create trouble in Xinjiang to liberate their brethren

    Here’s how China’s Ministry of State Security would use their internal Sun Tzu to tackle this problem,


    Look at the recent news.

    The taliban would support chinese projects in Afghanistan.

    Money over religion.


    Thank you for a very innovative article by Mr Karnad again. Your whole idea is based upon following assumptions :

    1. Taliban is divided into many factions and that their primary motivation is money and not any religious or political ideology.
    2. Most of the major countries in the World would be happy to see China diminished and they will help India doing that.
    3. Pakistan is a minor player that can be weaned away from China very easily.
    4. There are strong fault lines inside China which can be easily manipulated by India.

    My assumptions are :
    1. China have more money to spend than India so if India can bribe Taliban, China can bribe Taliban 10 times more.
    2. If some Taliban factions with money from India decides to support East Turkistan rebels what stops these same Taliban factions not to take money from China and support Kashimiri Militant groups ?
    3. Moreover if India helps anti-China militants, there is more encouragement for China to support militants in North-East as well as in Khalistan and Kashmir not to forget the Maoist rebels in Central India. I doubt India can survive all these at the same time.
    4. BY the logic that most of the World countries want to see China diminish and decline , it should naturally follow that most countries in South Asia want to see India diminish and decline. So this will be great for them to collaborate more with China to reduce and marginalize India.
    5. Well the Western countries would not be too unhappy to see India and China fight each other and diminish each other. A weakened and balkanized India would be absolute dream for the West since they will be able to sell their costly and worthless weapons and products to the conflicting Indian states with ease. I believe the rivalry with China will diminish India into being balkanized in very near future.

    I would love your expert and erudite views on these assumptions of mine.

    • Banerjee@ — Assumptions:
      1) No, because Taliban will be less prone to accepting bribes once they are informed of Uyghur conditions.
      2) This is a deep-embedded understanding Indian intel will have nurtured, I assume, in Taliban factions in Indian pay.
      3) There has been no letoff in China’s support for NE rebel movements; Beijing can spike this support only so much.
      4) Except, all states adjoining India are civilizationally, culturally and in other respects more attuned to India than China.
      5) Yes, but that will not stay China from competing militarily, etc with the US.

      • Mustafa Akhtar says:

        Sir what we can do to protect India? This is a freaking nightmare, makes me want sometime to cry, but heart says we will defeat the Chinese.

      • Mustafa Akhtar says:

        Dear Sir,
        Hope you are doing well,

        I want to ask you following:

        1) What Indian citizens can do at an individual level I mean this may sound nonsense, but should we make a militia like Chinese do let’s say nationalistic militia/ rebel grp. as was created by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. And should individuals make pressure by protest to recognise Taiwan in return for technology transfers in mobile ?

        2) What govt. can do where I assume that govt. put all ears on you?

        One suggestion for govt. to support our own mobile phone and laptop companies like Micromax, HCL, to really counter China as they are indigenous companies and even govt. can use them as their defence personnel cellphone contractors unlike Xiaomi for IB and all and Huawei, ZTE, and all.

        Support Make In India. Unfortunately mera phone Chinese h, but I promise once I got job I will definitely change my phone to Micromax.

        Jai Hind!!

      • Actually, General Enayet Habibullah, founder of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla — whom Gen. Ayub Khan tried to induce into joining the Pakistan army at Partition, had proposed the dismantling of the British style Indian army and to establish in its stead a people’s army and militias along the lines of the Chinese PLA. Great idea! May be it would have worked.

  11. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @ Professor Karnad- Indian Prime Minister is so scared that he didn’t even call out Chinese aggression last year. “Mitroo Naa koii ghussa haii….” and you expect him to fight for Uighurs in China 😆

    • Krishna Soni says:

      Modi in Ladakh: The era of colonial expansion is over. History is a witness to such forces being erased or forced to relent.
      Xi on CCP 100 yr anniversary warned that foreign forces attemping to bully China will “get their heads bashed”. Both Xi and Modi use harsh words against their enemies without NAMING them. But I will agree with Mr. Karnad that India should use the Uighur issue against the Chinese.

  12. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Is it the Indian James Bond? 🤔

  13. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Indian government just knows how to watch. They don’t have the courage to act. Keep watching and enjoying the show.


    Dear Mr Karnad I am so happy to receive your prompt reply. Do you not think that if India can convince some Taliban factions about Uygurs then at the same time China can also convince
    similarly more Taliban factions about Kashmir as well as NRC / CAA / 370 / Delhi-Gujarat riots ?

    On regards to South Asian countries having similar culture to India than the Chinese well Chinese have been coming and settling in South Asia for centuries. In Kolkata there have been Chinese settlements since the times of the East India company. Moreover from the times of Mahabharata we know that in South Asia people with similar cultures have always fought each other while foreigners have made frequent interventions using these differences. So if India could intervene in East Pakistan in 1971, in Maldives in 1986 and in Sri Lanka in 1987 , what stops China from intervening in Kashmir, Nagaland , Manipur or Khalistan ?

    To make a quick summary, if India thinks about intervening in Pakistan/China then similarly Pakistan/China can mess up numerous (and ever growing) fault lines inside this country. What are your thoughts about this ?

    Moreover MK Bhadrakumar says that the US will even not change its one-china policy let alone defend Taiwan in time of a war. I would welcome your expert opinion on the same.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

    • Banerjee@ — China’s mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs more egregious than India’s of its Muslim population. Taiwan cannot expect an unreliable US to militarily intervene. That’s the reason I argued in my 2008 book — ‘India’s Nuclear Policy’ that Taiwan, South Korea and Japan will all go nuclear — I called this the falling of the Asian “nuclear dominoes”.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Bharat Karnad- “China’s mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs more egregious than India’s of its Muslim population”

        This statement is not true. As someone, who lives in China. I can tell you that if anyone from Tibet/Xinjiang doesn’t harbor “freedom illusion” that person doesn’t have any trouble with the authorities.

        West has greatly hyped up the Tibet/Xinjiang issues.

        Majority of the youngsters in these two regions are interested in improving their economic conditions rather than dying for a lost cause of getting their own countries. China will never let that happen.

        India with it’s numerous internal fault lines (north-south divide, discrimination against north easterners across the nation, Kashmir separatism, Sikh independence movement, Naxalite insurgency etc.) hasn’t disintegrated.

        There is no possibility of China breaking up.

        USA will never come to aid Taiwan militarily but then China will also never forcibly try to annex Taiwan.

        Chinese government talk tough on the issue just for showing its bravado.

        This is akin to India claiming POK and Aksai Chin militarily. Mere talks without any intention of action.

  15. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    This is the only way, India can hurt China by targeting projects in CPEC and OBOR.

    Indian James Bond has excellent connections across the Radcliffe line so, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to accomplish the aforesaid.

  16. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatKarnad When you say implode and include Asian nations too, do you also include India in it as an Asian nation? Can India implode?

  17. Rudra says:

    Sir next blog on Afghan mineral security.
    Can we bribe mines controlling factions of Taliban

  18. Sankar says:

    @Professor Karnad:
    Is it true historically at the time of partition of British India, the Beluchi political leaders wanted Balochistan to join India but the Indian Congress did not accept that proposal?

    On an aside as a pointer to the previous forum, was Kailash-Manossarovar region under the Maharajah’s J&K estate? Many, many years ago, my forefathers in their generations paid pilgrimage to Manossarovar lake for religious rituals, I am sure there were other Hindus also doing the same in those years. They never needed “permission” or visa from China to visit Manossarovar in that era. What is the modern Indian Army’s position, or better said “perception” in this regard?

    • The Khan of Kalat, the titular leader of Balochistan at Independence, was certainly NOT for Partition and Pakistan. But once Pakistan came into being, he hoped to spin his state if not out of Pakistan than to negotiate an autonomous status within it as promised him by Jinnah.


    Dear Karnad sir,

    It is being reported that India was using the Pegasus spyware even against Dalai Lama as well as senior officials of the Tibetan gov in exile in Dharamshala. Will this impact India’s Tibet card vis a vis China ?
    How do you think the Pegasus spyware issue will play out against India in the overall geopolitical game vis a vis China and Pakistan ?

    • The Pegasus saga is unlikely to leave a lasting footprint. All Indian govts have used electronic and HUMINT means to keep tabs on the opposition and on the elements around the HH Dalai Lama — because the Dalai’s own brother was HH’s rep to dialogue with China in the past. No knowing how that has gone down. Speculation this, but there could be close advisers to the Dalai Lama who may be for reconciling with the Xi regime.


    Thanks for your prompt reply Mr Karnad.

    1. So why is India not willing to see any deal between Beijing and the Dalai Lama ? What are India’s reservations ?
    2. what are motivations behind Indian move to attack Chinese engineers in the Dashu project in Pakistan ? Do you think there is a risk that we could be put into FATF because of this ?
    3. I did mention in 2020 just after the COVID lockdowns were being implemented that this is a great opportunity for China to make it’s presence felt in the South Asian region. I believe I have been proven right by circumstances in last six months. Do you think now China will be a permanent player challenging our hegemony in the South Asian region ?

    Looking forward to your extremely informed views on the same.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

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