The US now realizes that OBOR is a vehicle which Beijing can use to catalyze an irreversible change in the strategic balance of power of new trade routes and markets. By prioritizing India in South Asia and negating Pakistan’s numerous efforts in Afghanistan regional stability will deteriorate further. India’s stance on CPEC is that it passes through disputed territories. It recently obtained support from the US and now Afghanistan is in the same camp. All these states should not undermine the prospects of development in the disputed territories through CPEC by China and Pakistan, otherwise they are negating the Sustainable Development Goals, which cannot be considered universal. There are some tumultuous factors which are contributing to the growing Indo-Afghan nexus. First; historically India was the only South Asian country which recognized the Soviet backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War. After the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, India remained consistent in providing Najibullah’s government with humanitarian aid. Secondly; India’s bilateral trade with Afghanistan is increasing gradually for example it was $684.47 million between 2014 and 2015. India’s exports increased to$422.56 million. Meanwhile imports from Afghanistan reached a worth of $261.91 million during the same time period. It is pertinent to discuss here that despite the lack of direct land access, India is the second largest destination for Afghan exports. The defence facet comes third. Last year India delivered three Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan according to the International Business Time Report. Fourth; India’s Prime Minister Modi and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the new Afghan Parliament building which cost $90 million and India constructed as a good will gesture. Fifth; According to Sushma Swaraj India is working with Afghanistan and Iran to develop a trilateral transit through the development of the Chabahar Port to connect with Afghanistan and beyond. And lastly the most influential factor is the extra regional role, especially the US’ role to bring close India to Afghanistan making it a more important ally in the South Asian region and ignoring Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. A Pentagon report titled as “Enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan” released in June, 2017 has labeled India as Afghanistan’s most reliable regional partner. Simultaneously this report underscored that Afghan oriented militant groups are being supported by Pakistan’s government Furthermore, Modi’s recent visit to the US in June 2017 concluded the joint statement of both countries, that Washington would co-sponsor Indo-Afghan export. Likewise, a Pentagon report titled as “Enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan” released in June, 2017 has labeled India as Afghanistan’s most reliable regional partner. Simultaneously this report underscored that Afghan oriented militant groups are being supported by Pakistan’s government. Following these statements, another development occurred when the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Kabul in October. Tillerson said “Clearly we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,”. Recently, Donald Trump’s Administration unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, and officials said more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops are being sent to the country to reinforce the 11,000 U.S. troops already stationed in the country. He also emphasized that the US’ new strategy towards Afghanistan, making it obvious that the US is committed to working with the Afghan government and with partners across the region (with priority being given to India) to bring peace in Afghanistan and deny safe heavens to terrorist who threaten this objective (accusation on Pakistan). It is pertinent to discuss here that if the objective is to bring peace to Afghanistan and the whole region as well then prioritizing one South Asian country is in this process of peace is unsound. Pakistan should be assimilated and the process of peace should be inclusive instead of biased. Later on, Ashraf Ghani visited India just a day after Tillerson’s visit to Afghanistan and termed the Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy a “game-changer” for the region as it “recommends multi-dimensional condition-based approach for the region.” The question arises as to how this policy will be a game changer in which only India is needed for US in terms of Afghanistan? Following these developments, Ghani said that Kabul will restrict Pakistan’s access to Central Asia if it is not given access to India through the CPEC, according to a DNA (Daily News and Analysis) article by addressing a gathering at the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi. He said that his country will not be a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) unless it is given access to Pakistan’s Wagah and Attari border, DNA India reported. Hence it is inevitable here to raise the argument that the real game changer of the region is the CPEC project. CPEC is inclusive as it restricts neither Afghanistan nor India. The comment came a week after a meeting took place between representatives of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States in Oman, in which the revival of peace talks with the Taliban was discussed. Hence both Afghanistan and India should also perceive the CPEC project a threat to them. Summing up the above arguments, as President Ghani said, “Afghanistan’s not onboard with CPEC unless Pakistan gives it access to India through CPEC”, is baseless and seems like a statement made under Indian pressure. It gives the impression that the US has its own concerns to contain China’s influence in South Asia. Eventually both US and India came together on their obnoxious stance on CPEC and now they are influencing Afghanistan against this development. However this project is simply a development project and would bring prosperity and regional connectivity to all of South Asia. Afghanistan should not be part of this containment policy instead it should focus on its development and cooperation with all neighboring countries. As far as China and Pakistan are concerned, China will not give up CPEC just because of Indian protests. The Indian government will not cease its developmental activities in Arunachal Pradesh either (disputed territory). But is it not important to respect the voices of communities residing in disputed territories as a priority rather than following the institutional norms in developmental activities? From inter-governmental institutions like ADB/World Bank to each country sharing disputed territories like India or China or Pakistan, it is important to stand up for the right to development for these communities. Otherwise, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be considered ‘universal’. CPEC is a flagship of this initiative because it provides China with reliable non-Malacca access to the Indian Ocean. Russia has also backed this initiative. Asia Maqsood is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, November 12th 2017.