In an alarming development for India, after a meeting of foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Beijing on Tuesday (Dec 26), Chinese foreign minister Wang said China and Pakistan are willing to find out ways to extend China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the $57 billion project, to Afghanistan.
Wang said China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.
Afghanistan has urgent need to develop and improve people's lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives, Wang told reporters, as he announced that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to mend their strained relations.
"So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan," he added.
India has looked suspiciously at the project as parts of it run through Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India claims its own territory.
China has sought to bring Kabul and Islamabad together partly due to apparent Chinese fears about the spread of militancy from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, according to Reuters news agency.
Hence China has pushed Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their own ties so they can better tackle the militancy in their respective countries, and has also tried to broker peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants. A tentative talk process collapsed in 2015.
Wang said China fully supported peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and would continue to provide "necessary facilitation".
The Belt and Road infrastructure drive aims to build a modern-day "Silk Road" connecting China to economies in Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.
At the same time, to alleviate Indian apprehensions, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the project extension was not directed at any third country and that it serves the common interests of the three counties.
"Just as foreign minister Wang Yi said at the joint press conference, CPEC is not directed at the third party and we hope to bring benefit to the third party and the whole region," Hua said without naming India while responding to a question on reports about New Delhi's concerns about CPEC.
"The trilateral cooperation and dialogue is not directed at any country or any party and the dialogue and cooperation should not be influenced and disturbed," Hua emphasized.
The CPEC is a flagship project
The CPEC is a flagship project of China's prestigious One Belt One Road and links its restive Xinjiang region with Pakistan's Gwadar port in Balochistan province.
The network of highways, railways, roads and special economic zones is opposed by India as it passes through a part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan and claimed by India.