China’s Afghanistan “wait & see” policy and Pakistan
CHINA has been following a constant policy of “wait & see” on Afghanistan which seems to be a “rational” approach.
The sudden fall of Kabul was “rattled” the myth of US “universal superman cop” and consequently its regional allies got depressed.
Some regional countries have been following track-II diplomacy mostly under-cover on behalf of the US but still their efforts have not yet been successful.
Qatar, Indonesia and Turkey have been very active to play the important role of the transit “gap bridges” to avoid any spillover repercussion in terms of poor law and order situation, worsening bilateral or trilateral relationships, wide-spread terrorism, radicalization, human & drug trafficking, and last but not the least, massive human migration from Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have been dreaming of their “old age” influence over old Taliban and failed to “catch-up” with other regional countries to play a positive role.
Iran took the extreme position and rejected the so-called inclusive interim government of Taliban and demanded holding of immediate new elections in Afghanistan.
However, its army chief has just visited Pakistan to realign its “jagged” policies towards Afghanistan.
The pendulum of regional power and global alignment started swinging violently. Thus political vacuum created and forces of integration stood up to the task and tried to fill the widening gap of rationality.
China led this “constructive” campaign of “sanity”, “humanitarian assistance”, “dialogue”, “development” and “diplomacy” with the new political reality [Taliban].
On its part the government of Pakistan and military establishment has also been working very hard to convince Taliban to form an inclusive government since the fall of Kabul but killing spirits of Taliban remained the main “impediment” in this regard.
The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan has been trying to persuade all the regional countries to recognize Taliban but still its efforts have not yet been successful because of numerous changes in the regional as well as international “power chessboard”.
In this connection, the most recently concluded visit of Deputy Secretary of the United States to Islamabad unfortunately proved “terminal”. The message was loud and clear that “do not recognize” Taliban which somehow a great setback to Pakistan and its main stakeholders.
On the other hand, China has been following a constant policy toward Taliban which proved very successful.
Pakistan and China have been consulting to chalk out a comprehensive plan for the recognition of Taliban since the fall of Kabul.
In this context, most recently, while addressing the G-20 leaders meeting Chinese State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi proposed “multifaceted engagement” with Afghanistan.
He termed that Afghanistan was at a “crossroads” where “challenges and opportunities coexist.” Wang proposed “four-way engagement” with new interim government of Taliban.
Firstly, initiate comprehensive humanitarian support to Afghan people to overcome difficulties, including food shortages, the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of medical supplies while stressing respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
The most recent statement of Taliban warned the US and EU of refugees if sanctions on Afghanistan continue also reconfirmed Chinese apprehension.
In this connection, Beijing already announced $31 million in humanitarian support to the Taliban Administration.
Thus Chinese proposal of engagement with Taliban is a right step on right time. Secondly, Wang emphasized for “an open, inclusive path of development” in Afghanistan.
He urged that the international community should proceed from a rational and pragmatic perspective, engage in dialogue and contact with all parties in Afghanistan, support the Afghan people to independently choose a development path that suits their national conditions.
He termed more financial support vital to alleviate poverty and infrastructure projects and upheld that unilateral sanctions on Afghanistan should be lifted as soon as possible.
The US has frozen nearly $9 billion of Afghan reserves since the Taliban regained power in Kabul in August after the exit of foreign forces which should be released immediately.
Thirdly, Wang stressed that there should be a “zero-tolerance attitude” to ensure Afghanistan stays away from terrorism. He proposed that relevant parties in Afghanistan should be pushed to make early decisions and take concrete actions to eradicate the cancer of terrorism.
He urged an end to “double standards and selective anti-terrorism efforts of the international community to achieve a durable peace and harmony in the region.
Thus, China proposed a holistic approach to eliminate menace of terrorism and radicalization in Afghanistan.
Fourthly, the Chinese Foreign Minister urged that the international community should build “consensus and promote the formation of synergy among various Afghan-related mechanisms.”
In this regard, he maintained that the status of the United Nations as the main channel for promoting peace and stability and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan should be fully operationalized and channelized too.
Furthermore, he stressed that the G-20 should base itself on the positioning of the International Economic Cooperation Forum, focusing on gathering wisdom and promoting cooperation from the economic perspective of humanitarian assistance and peaceful reconstruction of war-torn country Afghanistan.
Wang addressed the meeting on behalf of the Chinese President Xi Jinping as his Special Representative.
Being a prominent regional expert of China, CPEC & BRI, this scribe really appreciate holistic approach of Chinese government’s towards Afghanistan which also supported by Pakistan that “leaving Afghans” and “discarding Taliban” would support and nurture terrorism and radicalization in Afghanistan.
Moreover, Chinese government comprehensive socio-economic policies of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan is the way forward which should be followed by all the regional countries as well as international movers & shakers to move Afghan people in the right direction of safety and human survival.
Moreover, Chinese policy of zero-tolerance of terrorism is actually the key of a prosper Afghanistan and consequently stable region.
Role of international community and economic forum should come forward to recue Afghan from the perpetual traps of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, discrimination towards women and ethnic exploitation towards weaker sections of the society.
Chinese proposal of forming an inclusive and open interim government is the “rule of the game”. Otherwise it fears that another spell of bloody struggle may be “instigated” among the different factions of Taliban.
Even Tajikistan categorically requested Pakistan to intervene and influence Taliban to include Tajiks and Hazaras in the new set-up.
The most recent visit of Uzbekistan Foreign Minister to Afghanistan also showed sense of urgency among all the regional countries, especially Central Asian States to form an inclusive and open government in Afghanistan.
In this connection, Uzbekistan has been striving very hard to achieve the ultimate goals of regional peace and stability through rigorous socio-economic assistance, political consultations with Pakistan, Iran and other regional countries to facilitate Afghan people struggling from ongoing political fuss.
Most recent meeting of regional Security Chiefs in Islamabad once again reaffirmed Chinese policy of “wait & see” on Afghanistan.
Any smart move of any country to turn the table in its favour would be a strategic disaster. Thus rely on Chinese wisdom and other regional countries are the need of the hour.
To conclude Moscow has also planned to schedule a meeting on October 20 that will also discuss the possibility of holding a conference on Afghanistan under the auspices of the UN.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics, Regional geopolitical expert of China, CPEC & BRI.