By Yunis Abdullayev
China and Pakistan, which have been strong strategic partners, share common interests and stances on the coordination and promotion of political and economic developments in the southeast region of Asia.
It should be noted that Beijing and Islamabad have inked an agreement on the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is a substance of China’s Belt and Road project serving the prosperous development of east and south-east Asia.
According to experts, after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, China and Pakistan would be the only regional actors playing a constructive and profitable role in maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in the phone talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that the governments of China and Pakistan need to engage in joint activities to sustain the stable government transition in Afghanistan. He offered suggestions encouraging all Afghan parties to be involved in the dialogue in order to establish an inclusive and representative government that takes into account the interests of all segments of the Afghan people.
As for Pakistan, the Khan government stressed the importance of coordinating activities on the achievement of peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan, which is possible through an inclusive political settlement of conflicts in the war-torn country.
It is worth noting that China and Pakistan, along with Turkey, Russia, and Iran, will take part as main mediators in the Afghan-led peace process. Both countries are stressing the need for the coordination of common approaches to the Afghan issue in the framework of bilateral and multilateral formats.
According to Muhammed Asif Nur, a Pakistani expert on Eurasian studies, both Beijing and Islamabad share similar views on Afghanistan and consider that there should be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the growing crisis in the country. He believed that the Afghan problem should not be remained unresolved, as it has regional and global implications.
Touching upon this issue, Asif Nur noted that at various levels both states have maintained contact with the Afghan Taliban and informed them about the apprehensions for the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan and China especially when both countries are facing homegrown threats and terrorist organizations.
“For Pakistan TTP, other religious fundamentalist groups are the cause for concern. The message however is loud and clear from the Afghan Taliban for TTP as well that they would not like to welcome them on Afghan soil. Pakistan has been fighting a war at home against the terrorists and sacrificed 70,000 lives in this war that has fallen on Pakistan due to failed policies of the US in Afghanistan,” said Asif Nur.
As for China, he said that Beijing is also worried about the instability in Afghanistan and supporting a peaceful solution.
“China has helped Afghanistan through various energy, construction, roads and other social projects to provide job opportunities and economic support to the country. Both states have remained engaged at the regional level of dialogue to find the resolution to the Afghan problem,” he added.
Asif Nur also underscored that the Afghan-led peace process should be led by Afghan themselves, and it depends on Afghans to decide their fate and the future of their country. China and Pakistan could just mediate in the arrangement of the Afghan-led peace process and dialogue with the participation of all Afghan political forces.
“First of all, Afghans are leaders of their own destiny and there should be an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process. This is what all the regional countries have always supported. Both China and Pakistan cannot lead the peace process in Afghanistan. It is the people of Afghanistan and all the stakeholders will decide about their future role. They will decide on an inclusive approach to the Afghan problem. Pakistan, China or any other regional country can only facilitate the process of peace in the country. These countries can only support and offer incentives for economic wellbeing, but leading the process will not be the priority of the countries at the moment,” he noted.
Pakistan and China are the key stakeholders in the Afghan issue. Both countries have interests there. Pakistan being the immediate neighbour would like to see peace in Afghanistan, Ansar Mahmood Bhatti, chief-in-editor of Daily Islamabad Post and DNA News Agency told Eurasia Diary, noting that all future projects with the Central Asian states can only be completed provided there through complete peace and stability in Afghanistan that is why both Pakistan and China genuinely want stability.
He added that Beijing and Islamabad are not the only regional players who can ensure peace in Afghanistan.
“Apart from these two countries Russia, Iran and to some extent India can also play a role. Then the Central Asian states especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan’s role is also significant for both these countries having a large number of people living in Afghanistan, especially in the Panjshir Valley, which is home of former commander Ahmed Shah Massoud and now his son Ahmed Massoud leading the group. They are of Tajik ethnicity. Both these countries, like Pakistan, have direct consequences of any disturbance in Afghanistan that is why they want peace there,” he said.
Regarding the question about Beijing and Islamabad’s role in a nationwide dialogue, he noted that the solution of Afghan problem is a bit difficult as this country’s society is composed of various ethnicities and no single party or group or individual has control over the entire strata of society. Taliban among them happens to be the biggest group.
Viewing the further role of India in Afghanistan, Mahmood Bhatti believed that
New Dehli certainly would not like Pakistan and China to have deep footprints in Afghanistan. The main reason is that after the withdrawal of NATO forces and Taliban’s victory over power grab, India has emerged a biggest loser.
“New Delhi had invested a lot in Afghanistan in order to make inroads into the Afghan milieu however with the Taliban takeover, all its designs seem to have been frustrated. India therefore would try its best to dent Pakistan, China’s nexus in Afghanistan, for which it can go to any extent,” he stressed.
Another important point connected with Afghan issues is that Pakistan and China want to see Afghanistan as a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Noting the geostrategic importance of Afghanistan in Asia, both Chinese and Pakistan officials think that Kabul could play a significant role in the development of this economic corridor.
Shazia Anwer Cheema, a Prague-based foreign affairs expert, told Eurasia Diary that Afghanistan being at the cross-road of Central Asia—South Asia and Middle East will be the most beneficiary in the trade corridor of CPEC. She said that China and Pakistan want to establish good railway networking inside Afghanistan and want to connect it with Pakistan’s railway networking through Landikotal and Chaman borders.
“Pakistan has already completed road infrastructure within Pakistan through the province of Balochistan to the Afghanistan border under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. Once law and order situation in Afghanistan is appropriate, this road network would be operational and perfect to transport to and from Afghan and Central Asian goods to Gwadar deep Sea Port. Everything that will go through Afghanistan coming from Central Asian States will economically help the Afghan government in the shape of cargo levies and import-export taxes. This will give a huge support to Afghanistan as a transport hub country,” Cheema said.
She believes that the Taliban will announce Afghanistan as a Duty Free country and take transport taxes from transportation and trade.
“Afghanistan will become a centre-stage for foreign countries for buying and selling all kinds of products coming and going to Central Asia and China and as far as Russia. I have high hopes about the future of Afghanistan because the Taliban have zero tolerance towards corruption and narcotics and these two issues have been big impediments that discourage investments in previous Afghanistan regimes.,” she said.
If the inclusive and representative government can be established in Afghanistan through the long-term political settlement, if Taliban can understand the economic policies of China and Pakistan towards regional development, Beijing and Islamabad will play a substantial and profitable role in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan that create spillover to neighboring regions.
China and Pakistan partnership on Afghanistan will have strong impacts on the establishment of peace, security and stability, as well as economic and social prosperity in the country.
China and Pakistan are main guarantors of political stabilization and economic development in the south-east region of Asia.