Expansion by Stealth: China’s Interests, Infrastructure & Investment in Pakistan & Afghanistan

Publication date:
Ayesha Siddiqa

Policy Research Papers

January 2012

As the United States (US) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces prepare to withdraw or draw down their forces from Afghanistan in 2014, there is considerable speculation regarding a possible power vacuum, questions about who will fill it, and the probable implications involved. Certainly, there are a number of regional players that are likely to play a role or to contest for a larger share of the Afghan pie. However, this issue is not just about Afghanistan, but is also about Pakistan as well, which has become closely linked with Afghanistan due to the con­ditions in the region before and after 9/11.

This paper considers China’s role in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region from the perspective of how it will add to existing problems or help to solve others. Specifically, it will examine some of the projects initiated by China in the two countries, in order to: (i) understand the direction of China’s on-going and future activities; (ii) understand the nature of Chinese political and economic stakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and (iii) whether these will strengthen the region or pose greater challenges for the USand NATOforces, for Europe, and for the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as part of the process of exploration of the main sources of tension and fault lines in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the role regional actors, such as China, play in this regard.

The present study will therefore also examine the overall set of challeng­es faced by Afghanistan and Pakistan. The study depends on secondary sources for Afghanistan and on a mixture of secondary and primary sources for Pakistan. The initial sections of the paper will entail an analy­sis of the state of the region, before entering into a discussion of China’s relations, its future investments and the impact its presence and policies will have on peace, security and development in the two countries.