ISLAMABAD: Chinese President Xi Jinping backed reconciliation in Afghanistan in his recently concluded visit to Pakistan to push for the country’s enhanced role in the peace process and promote regional economic integration by implementing the silk road economic belt initiative.
In his address to the Pakistani parliament on Tuesday, Xi also threw his weight behind Pakistan’s efforts to encourage the Taliban to join the intra-Afghan peace dialogue. Pakistan reiterated support for Beijing’s growing political role in Afghanistan as the Foreign Office spokesperson said both countries can reach out to Central Asia if conditions in Afghanistan are peaceful.
“Pakistan recognises the constructive role played by China in regional peace and stability and in this context, the two sides have agreed to strengthen cooperation on Afghanistan, support the ‘Afghan-owned and Afghan-led’ peace and reconciliation process, and work with the international community to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” said Pakistan’s statement issued on the occasion of the Chinese president’s visit.
China is engaged in Afghanistan’s reconciliation through bilateral and trilateral ties, as well as multilateral mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Istanbul Process. Pakistan will host the next ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process in Islamabad later this year.
Chinese officials believe stability in Afghanistan is also key to the success of the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor that will also benefit the conflict-ridden country to a large extent.
China is among the few countries that have maintained direct communication with the Afghan Taliban to convince them to sit face-to-face with the Afghan government. The Chinese also want to secure their investments and urge the Taliban not to shelter Uighur militants from its Xinjiang region.
Pakistani analysts believe China is in a better position than any other country to help in the hard-to-achieve peace process in Afghanistan as it has never pursued military ambitions in the country.
Senator Mushahid Hussain says China enjoys the confidence of the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as Pakistan and the United States.
“A key component of China’s new proactive regional diplomacy is to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan—in cooperation with Pakistan—which would also help protect China’s Western flank, i.e., Xinjiang province, that borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Hussain told The Express Tribune on Friday.
Afghan political commentators argue China has enhanced its political role in Afghanistan as peace and stability will help the country use Afghanistan as a route to boost its trade with the Central Asian states and Europe.
Najam Burhani, an Afghan analyst, says Afghanistan wants promotion of economic and direct trade relations with China through the Silk Road, which connects China’s Xinjiang province with Wakhan district in Badakhshan province.
“As China has invested millions of dollars in Ainak Mine in central Logar province and eyes to secure more projects including construction of dams, it wants to play a proactive role in the peace process,” Burhani told The Express Tribune.
Chinese media usually does not comment on the country’s role vis-à-vis the Taliban reconciliation. None of the country’s media outlets reported the Taliban delegation’s visit in November, a Chinese journalist said on condition of anonymity.
China’s Global Times newspaper in a recent rare commentary warned, “If countries in the region don’t work together to advance the peace process, it is highly likely the country will fall into chaos again and threaten the whole region.”
The paper in an opinion piece even supported power sharing with the Taliban.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2015.
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