Beginning of rapprochement in Sino-Afghan relations – OpEd – Eurasia Review

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan followed the disintegration of the former USSR in the early 1990s, and due to its internal dissensions, conflicts and rivalries, China remained inactive for a long time. On the other hand, the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan has witnessed large-scale chaos, lawlessness and instability in the country and the Taliban, a terrorist militia, taking advantage of the current situation, have taken state power in 1996 which lasted until 2001, but was overthrown by US forces when they began searching for world-renowned terrorist Osama bin Laden.

The new interim government was formed under President Hamid Karzai, which opened a new chapter in Afghan-Chinese relations and restored a strong bond of closeness and understanding between them. As a sign of goodwill, in December 2001, China sent a Foreign Ministry working team to attend the founding ceremony of the Afghan Interim Administration and also sent a congratulatory message to the newly appointed president. During the period, with the deepening of relations, China explored its possibility of expanding its business and kept away from politics as well as the country’s security issues. In short, Beijing has focused solely on business goals and refrained from getting involved in the US-sponsored counterterrorism campaign launched in the post-9/11 phase, political reconciliation and economic reconstruction, because he did not want to play the role of subordinate partner in any way. of the Western coalition.

However, over the years, considerations in Kabul have changed, with the Taliban becoming increasingly powerful and capturing one territory after another. The Western powers, under the leadership of the United States, also felt the futility of continuing the war against the dominant terrorist groups. As a result, a consensus emerged among the powers concerned to establish peace in Afghanistan through non-military means and it finally materialized in February 2020 when the United States agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan.

China’s security motives

Although Afghanistan has remained unstable for the past three decades, Beijing has taken an interest in Kabul affairs since the emergence and expansion of the Taliban, a potential terrorist militia, at the turn of the century or so. nearly from 2001, when the first Taliban government collapsed due to war. of a decisive war against terrorist groups, in particular Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.

As China sits close to Afghanistan and shares about 76 kilometers of border, developments in Kabul have directly threatened China’s Xinjiang province where the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population resides. China, too, has long suffered from the terrorist activities of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, and during this time a good number of Uyghur Muslims have taken refuge in the Federal Administered Area (FATA) of Pakistan and in the southern and southern provinces. from eastern Afghanistan.

According to one estimate, around eight thousand Uyghur Muslim terrorists live in Afghanistan, preparing for a terror war against Beijing. In addition, terrorist groups originating from Xinjiang Province and living in Afghanistan have transnational ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), Islamic Party of Turkestan TIP ). They all want and are active enough to establish an East Turkestan Islamic State in Xinjiang.

Thus, all Chinese activities in Afghanistan revolve around its perceptions of internal security and, therefore, it has ignored political reconciliation and other reconstruction work in the country. In this context, Beijing was ready to train Afghan soldiers on Chinese soil to renounce the objective of (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and a host of other terrorist groups who wish to infiltrate the province. Chinese people from Xinjiang by the northeast border of Afghanistan and get their dreams realized.

China’s economic interests in Afghanistan

Apart from Chinese national security considerations, there are two main economic/trade factors that have most prompted Beijing to move closer to Afghanistan: a. China’s own commercial interests, and b. Afghanistan being a hub of natural resources.

Compared to other countries in the region, the location of Afghanistan is significant as it opens up the trade routes as well as vast trade routes and avenues to South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia West and China. Beijing, being the largest exporter in the region, which has developed the most over the past decades and years, naturally needs huge global markets and sales agents for its economic prosperity and power in the community. nations.

Its latest trade controversy with the United States of America, initiated with Donald Trump’s accession to the presidency of the United States (and continued under the Biden administration), has made it difficult for China to trade with Western countries. in general, especially with those that the United States keeps well. relationships and understanding. The second lucrative cause of Beijing’s temptation in Afghanistan is its natural resources which include rare earth elements to deposits of copper, iron ore, gold, lithium and more.

Keeping the said goals in mind, Beijing has also expanded into Afghanistan under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) policy, a dream of global growth project launched in 2013 and implemented in more than a hundred countries of the world to help/develop underdeveloped and underdeveloped countries. . Three years after its launch, China and Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2016, in which they both expressed their joint commitment to promote cooperation within the framework of BRI projects, which will also integrate into the future Kabul. in intercontinental infrastructure and relaunch its economy. Following decades of understanding between the two, especially since 2001, China has become an important trading partner of Afghanistan and it reached US$544 in 2017 and during the year they also signed a free trade agreement that opened a brilliant chapter in their economic relations.

China’s Forward Movement in Afghanistan

Keeping the wider interests in mind, the People’s Republic of China has gradually played a greater role in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and has begun to launch peacekeeping efforts with the help of Pakistan and of Afghanistan through shuttle diplomacy, in addition to joining a regional pool, Quadrilateral Coordination Group since 2015. He has also seen correctly, weakening the position of the Afghan government in the country and established good relations with the Taliban in recent years to facilitate its relationship with the Afghan government and the people as well.

In August 2021, when the United States finally and completely withdrew, the Taliban seized political power in the country and, within days, formed a government to rule the nation. In return for Chinese aid and assistance, the ruling Taliban called China a close friend and assured Beijing to limit support for militants from Afghan soil. Right now it looks like a good regional mix of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and likely to continue in the days to come unless something happens unexpectedly.