Hello defence lovers! After the fall of Kabul, a former senior American diplomat (America’s former envoy to the United Nations) Nikki Haley, has said that there is a need to closely watch China as it is making a move to take over the Bagram air force base that was controlled by the United States for nearly two decades. In this article, we are going to discuss why we should take this warning very seriously and what threat India will face if China takes over the Bagram Airbase.
Why Bagram Airbase Is So Important?
We have already published a detailed article on Bagram Airbase. We would recommend you to read that article first in order to understand the strategic importance of the airbase. Click here to read.
The Bagram airbase was initially built by the Soviets after the Invasion of Afghanistan. But when they left, they completely destroyed the airbase by heavy bombing. The Soviets also destroyed all the infrastructure they had built by series of carpet bombings. They followed a proper scorched earth policy before leaving Afghanistan.
A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful for the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted and destoyed. It usually includes weapons, transport vehicles, communication sites, and industrial resources.
This Strategy is followed while withdrawing or falling back from a certain area and it is obvious that the enemy will occupy it after the withdrawal.
However, anything useful to the advancing enemy may be targeted, including food stores and agricultural areas, water sources, and even the local people themselves, though the last has been banned under the 1977 Geneva Conventions
Taliban’s Cash Crunch
Taliban has captured Kabul and has even declared an interim government. But Capturing the capital and running the government are two different tasks altogether. The US has frozen the Afghan government’s $10 billion forex reserves. Roughly it takes $5 billion to run Afghanistan annually, but the treasuries are completely empty. Pakistan can export their terrorists for fighting with the Taliban and even bomb Panjshir but the Pakistani’s are beggars themselves and thus cannot provide any financial assistance unless it receives anything from Uncles Sam. In such a situation Taliban is looking towards China for financial assistance.
China At Bagram Airbase?
China has no shortage of foreign exchange reserves due to its enormous exports, thus $5 billion dollars is just peanuts for the Chinese. But the Chinese are extremely opportunistic. They won’t let go of the strategic and tactical advantage that Bagram airbase can provide them in central Asia. The Bagram airbase is kind of a fortress in itself. Moreover this time it is in pretty good shape. The runways are intact, the bunkers, hangers, ATC towers, barracks everything is in good shape. Thus China with minimal investment can make this airbase operational.
Since the Taliban lacks a proper airforce and has nothing in the name of air defence, China can promise Taliban protection from incoming aerial threats including US drones and Indian fighter jets from the Farkhor airbase. In return, Afghanistan will become china’s economic colony where it can exploit all the natural resources. It is very much possible that China will announce something like CPEC for Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban will export as much terrorism as possible to damage India.
Impact On India
With the strategically located Bagram airbase, china’s influence and military presence will increase significantly in central Asia. Although there is no direct threat to India from this airbase as our western borders are very well defended with air defence systems, long-range radars and forward air bases armed with lethal fighter jets.
But Anti-terror operations would be seriously hampered in the region. Bombing terrorists will become difficult if China starts providing air cover to them. Secondly, it will be a huge morale booster for the terrorists as they will receive someone to protect them from their deaths from the above.
But China’s hegemony will definitely increase and it is not at all good for India. In response, we must deploy at least a single squadron of Sukhoi Su 30 MKI at Farkhor airbase to send a loud and clear message to the Taliban, Pakistan and China. Our fighters should be ready to strike Kabul anytime in case of any misadventure by the Taliban.