Pakistan and China have jointly pushed the Afghan Taliban to completely break their ties with terrorist groups, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and all other outfits that pose a direct threat to both the countries and the region.
The Taliban, which have made rapid inroads in Afghanistan since the US and NATO forces started withdrawing from the war-torn country, have been told in clear terms that they not only had to make a clean break from the terrorist outfits, but also evict them from areas under the their control.
Taliban delegations have visited neighbouring countries in recent weeks, gaining international standing for a movement that had been treated as outcasts and banned as terrorists for most of the past two decades.
The latest power to host them is China, whose Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a nine-person delegation on Wednesday led by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin during a two-day visit.
Although China has maintained contacts with the Taliban, but this is the first time Foreign Minister Wang publically met the Taliban leaders. The Taliban delegation’s visit followed the visit by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
Official sources, familiar with the development, said the message had been conveyed to the Taliban in the wake of the July 14 terrorist attack targeting Chinese nationals, who were working on a hydroelectric project in Dasu, Kohistan.
At least nine Chinese were killed in the attack, which was initially termed as an accident. However, investigations later revealed that it was a terrorist attack and both Pakistan and China vowed to expose and punish the perpetrators.
Pakistan shared the findings of investigation with the Chinese authorities during the recent visit of Foreign Minister Qureshi and ISI Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to Beijing. China’s own investigations also indicated that ETIM carried out the attack with the help of the TTP.
There was also the possibility of involvement of some “hostile agencies”, according to the sources. ETIM, which is an Uyghur Islamic extremist organisation founded in western China, is seeking the establishment of an independent state called the East Turkestan, replacing Xinjiang.
Since the ETIM and the TTP are based in Afghanistan and to an extent enjoyed the support of Afghan Taliban, both Islamabad and Beijing took up the matter with the group. China has growing concerns about possible negative fallout of the unrest in Afghanistan in the wake of US and NATO pull-out.
The Kohistan terrorist attack set off alarm bells both in China and Pakistan with concerns that the security vacuum in Afghanistan would embolden groups such as the ETIM and the TTP, something that could endanger the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Against this backdrop, Pakistan requested China to directly convey its concerns to the Taliban over their reported ties with anti-Pakistan and anti-China terrorist groups. The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed that the Beijing took up the issue of the ETIM with the Afghan Taliban delegation.
According to a Chinese foreign ministry statement, Foreign Minister Wang stressed that the ETIM was an international terrorist organisation designated by the UN Security Council that posed a direct threat to China’s national security and territorial integrity.
“Combating it is a common responsibility for the international community. We hope the Afghan Taliban will make a clean break with all terrorist organisations, including the ETIM and resolutely and effectively combat them to remove obstacles, play a positive role and create enabling conditions for security, stability, development and cooperation in the region,” the Chinese statement read.
Pakistan also conveyed a similar message to the Afghan Taliban, pressing them to distance themselves from the TTP and also take action against them in areas that were under the Taliban control. Afghan Taliban were also conveyed that in case of non-cooperation they could face consequences such as non-recognition of their rule.
It is not clear, however, if the Afghan Taliban will be willing to take these groups head on although they had assured both Pakistan and China that they will not to allow Afghan soil to be used against the neighbours. In the past Afghan Taliban had attempted to strike a peace deal between the TTP and Pakistan but those efforts could not make any headway.
Pakistan is hoping that China could replace the US and play a constructive and positive role in bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan. Islamabad feels that China has the financial leverage to persuade Afghan Taliban for a compromise.
Politics, economy & security
Taliban delegations have also visited Iran and Russia in recent weeks. In a tweet about the China visit, Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem said that politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings.
“China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country,” Naeem added.
Meanwhile, Moscow said it was beefing up the combat capabilities at its military base in Tajikistan, a small former Soviet republic that borders Afghanistan. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, visiting Tajikistan on Wednesday, said the security situation had rapidly deteriorated in Afghanistan.
Shoigu said Islamic State (IS) fighters were moving into Afghanistan from countries including Syria and Libya, describing their arrival as “quite seriously organised”. He said: “We are paying increased attention to strengthening the combat capabilities of our base and refining plans to jointly repel possible insurgent infiltration.”
Separately, on a visit to India, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday Washington was deeply troubled by reports of escalating attacks on civilians as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan and the US pulled out its last remaining troops and ends its longest war.
(WITH INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ