Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 392, 9 June 2021

Afghanistan: Trilateral meeting highlights China's push for regional peace
Sarthak Jain

In the news
On 3 June, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held the fourth China-sponsored trilateral meeting virtually. 

A joint statement issued after the trilateral talks stated: "The three sides underlined the importance of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan and called on all parties for an early declaration of a comprehensive ceasefire and an end to the senseless violence, to create the conditions needed for negotiation between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban."
 
Issues at large
First, a brief on the trilateral meeting. It started in December 2017 with Beijing making a clear statement that it wants to include Islamabad and Kabul on the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2018, the three sides introduced the term "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned." Three parties signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Counter-Terrorism. In 2019, a joint press release said: "The three sides committed to promote measures to counter terrorists' logistical capabilities including terror-financing, recruitment and training." In July 2020, the three sides agreed to prevent discrimination and stigma pertaining to allegations on China and support the World Health Organization's leading role in coordinating global COVID-19 response. The idea of induction of Kabul in BRI has changed the importance of peace in the region.

Second, stability in Afghanistan and the BRI concerns. To expand the BRI, regional stability and peace in Afghanistan are important. Therefore, China had to intervene to maintain peace to ensure Kabul joins the BRI. Apart from holding peace talks, China has assisted with humanitarian aid, food aid and exporting vaccines to war-torn countries. 

Third, Afghanistan and China. Kabul has welcomed Chinese involvement. The Afghan government realizes the importance of investment in the region and thus appreciate any foreign support. The project offers much-needed infrastructure development to the nation.
 
In perspective
China believes in non-interference in internal conflicts of other nations. However, in this case, Beijing is breaking this pattern. It sees Afghanistan as an opportunity. To extend the BRI project, China needs a peaceful Afghanistan. Therefore, China has initiated its operations through dialogue. For Pakistan, China's involvement is a welcome step, as it would being Islamabad and Beijing closer on the regional issue. For Afghanistan, external investments in the post-withdrawal period is even more important.

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