After bagging the rights to develop the lucrative Aynak copper mine in 2008, China has completed its money-spinning one-two punch on the Afghan front by signing a ‘$7 billion’ worth oil deal with Afghanistan. The deal will see state-owned China Natural Petroleum Corporation develop a trio of oil fields along the Amu Darya River located in the north of the country – this area has been considerably less jarred by upshots of the American war. The ‘$7 billion’ amount that has been touted is the potential gain for the volatile region – that has been shrouded by war and its aftereffects for a long time – over the course of 25 years. The contract caters the northeastern provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab. Afghanistan will get 70 per cent of the total profits and the Chinese oil leviathan would be paying 15 per cent corporation tax. So basically, this is a deal that is going to reap prodigious fiscal benefits for Afghanistan, while at the same time it enables China to haul out resources to stimulate its ever escalating energy needs. This is a nailed on win-win situation if there ever was one!
Afghanistan sits atop massive mineral wealth and throughout the course of history powers have hankered after an entrance into its rich zones – China might just have conjured up the key that other powers have long craved for. The poor infrastructure and security issues, that have been the corollary of the American war in Afghanistan, have warded of Western mining companies; but China seems to be closing in on striking the proverbial goldmine.
Of course, when juxtaposed with other mammoth oil deals around the globe, the deal signed yesterday might seem petite; but what it has spelled out is the fact that China is the frontrunner in any forthcoming scramble for Afghan riches. This indeed is a leaf out of Victorian irony; for, US has consumed epochs, splurged out gazillions and has been at the receiving end of global antagonism just so it could be at the head of the queue in nosediving into opulent Afghani mines. And now when matters in Afghanistan are approaching something bordering on stability, especially in the concerned province – even if de facto stability might be half a light year away – it is China that is on the brink of forestalling US at the head of the pack in this ‘great game’. Americans are already sceptical about those at the helm; now watching China pick up the benefits of their ‘war on terror’ could result in a massive backlash.
It is indeed intriguing to note that after having endured three global monsters vying to overpower the nation and usurp their natural resources over the past forty years, Afghanistan seems to have identified the country that it trusts with its development. While the historical ‘superpowers’ expounded their intention of accessing the reservoirs via intimidation, the Asian giant that has triumphed has done so by showcasing its constructive intents around the globe, contrary to the relentless destruction of others.
China is – in its emblematically reticent manner – intent on ensuring that US’s ‘silk road’ aspirations do not materialise. And owing to this deal in Afghanistan, the Asian powerhouse has also flaunted its unparalleled wherewithal when it comes to matters pertaining to energy and resources. Experts also opine that there is a distinct possibility that after the rise of Korea and China into the upper echelons of geopolitical matters, Russia might follow the Asian upsurge and be more assertive in global matters. Russia has quite a few European strings tied to its belt courtesy its hegemony over natural gas in that particular neck of the woods; and now with US on a precipitous descent, Russian ascent might be on the horizon.
This deal is another massive wallop that the US has had to endure during its involvement in Afghanistan and it might find it difficult to further prolong its presence in Afghanistan. This might be the first of many such maneuvers from the Chinese hierarchy to strengthen its grip in Afghanistan by flexing its economic muscle, as US clings on to its few remaining dynamites. The US war in Afghanistan might not have had the cliché of ‘winner takes all’ bulging out from every iota; but as things stand, it is China that is on the verge of winning most – if not all.
The writer is Sub-Editor,
Profit. He can be reached at [email protected]