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The growing role of China in South Asia during the pandemic. Pakistan-Afghanistan Peace Process

On Wednesday, 1st of April, in the framework of the joint project of the Russian Middle East Association and the School of International Regional Studies of HSE University, Naseem Khan Achakzai, Executive Director of Bolan Development and Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability Research and Practice, the University of Lahore and his colleague, Hameed Khan gave the speech on two important issues: China’s increasing influence during the pandemic in South Asia and the peace process in Afghanistan and the changing priorities during the pandemic.

Naseem Khan Achakzai is already well-known expert for HSE University, in November 2019, he was invited as an expert to the I International Conference Globalization in Contemporary Asia, where he presented the topic “Pakistan as a center of “Great Game”: Global and Regional actors”.

Naseem Khan started with a short overlook of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and its spread all over the world. The expert himself visited China at the beginning of winter and had to admit that at that time people neither in Pakistan nor in other countries took the situation with coronavirus seriously, basing their judgments on the Ebola virus that stayed within the African continent. Though, when the situation changed dramatically, instead of reacting to the virus, the international community focused on blaming the Chinese political regime and the communist party. For countries like the US, the fact that the virus started in China, which was often blamed for the lack of democracy and violation of human rights was the crucial point.

Over the past decades, China was using so-called “soft power” in its foreign policy, so the harsh reaction to coronavirus was taken as the display of aggression by many countries. Despite that, China managed to decrease the spread of the virus and provide well-organized control and treatment for the population. Professor Achakzai explains it with the difference in governmental systems: while in Europe and the US most of the hospitals are private, in China they are governmental, which allows the free treatment and testing for the citizens. Therefore, nowadays China is recovering from COVID-19 and is quickly gaining its power: while the countries in Europe and the United States suffer the wide range of challenges from economic to humanitarian, China is reopening the factories and becoming the only country capable to produce the abundance of everything, from masks and gloves to laptops and smart devices. Thus, countries become dependent on China, especially Pakistan that is a strategic ally of “Belt and Road Initiative”. 

The second part of the online meeting was dedicated to the peace process in Afghanistan, especially in the times of the global pandemic. Naseem Khan Achakzai and his colleague Hameed Khan discussed the situation in the country and the possible scenarios of the further development of the situation and the world’s reaction to it. The engagement of the United States and the recent actions of Donald Trump were broadly discussed.

The experts underlined the social misbalance in the country and the role of terroristic organizations Tehik-i-Taliban Pakistan and ISIS (organizations banned in the Russian Federation) in helping the Taliban.

At the end of the session, the experts summed up the new opportunities for China after the pandemic, the change of the global order and the speed-up of globalization as the logical step forward.

Watch the full video of the meeting and join us for the next seminars: https://youtu.be/NZjx3bSON5s