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China to serve as 'mediator' for regional security on Afghan issue

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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As the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi Monday began visit to three Central Asian countries - Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan - all close neighbors of Afghanistan, the timing is optimal as Afghanistan has become a regional hot spot following the withdrawal of US-led troops, the Global Times reported Chinese analysts as saying.

The visit will provide a platform for China and the three countries to cooperate on regional security and China may offer financial and technical help for the countries that face challenges in securing border areas, analysts said.

Against the backdrop of the hasty withdrawal of US and NATO forces and the complicated evolution of the situation in Afghanistan, this visit is of important significance for properly dealing with the changing situation in post-withdrawal Afghanistan, jointly advancing the peace and reconciliation process, strengthening efforts to fight the three evil forces, namely, terrorist, separatist and extremist forces, and effectively maintaining regional security and stability, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday.

Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the three Central Asian countries are facing the foremost security threats as Afghanistan's neighbors.

Yang said that China might offer financial or technical help to the countries as they face challenges in securing the border areas.

China's consistent position on the Afghan issue is to respect Afghanistan's historical and current conditions, and to help but not interfere, which is also what separates China from the US and makes China a mediator, or a "guarantor of security" in the region, noted Yang.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said last Wednesday that the Taliban see China as a "friend" to Afghanistan and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work "as soon as possible."

The statement of a Taliban spokesperson on China also reflects that China may have more room to be more flexible in its mediating position in Afghanistan, which is also the basis and condition for Wang Yi's diplomatic coordination with the three countries, Yang said.

Not solely focusing on regional security, Wang Yi's visit will help stabilize the neighboring environment and advance relations with surrounding countries, Li Jianmin, academic dean of the Institute of Central Asian Studies at Northwest Normal University, told the Global Times. She noted that China may further expand collaboration with the three countries in epidemic prevention and control as the new wave of the epidemic hit Central Asia hard.

As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, during his visit to the Central Asian countries, Wang Yi will also attend multilateral events including the SCO foreign ministers' meeting and have friendly exchanges with foreign ministers of other participating countries. Wang will discuss the situation in Afghanistan with SCO officials.

Led by China and Russia, the SCO is a regional political and security alliance. Its active members also include India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Will China succeed where US has failed in Afghanistan?

With the departure of the U.S. and other Western troops, Afghan politicians have also opened up to Chinese overtures, according to Sabah daily of Turkey. They held talks with Chinese officials on Afghanistan as an important component of the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project under BRI, with its emphasis on building up a massive infrastructure network comprising highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting Pakistan and China.

China's past efforts at getting the Afghan government on board had been unsuccessful because of the influence wielded by the U.S. on successive Afghan governments, which have been hesitant to join China's BRI ( Belt and Road Initiative) extension plans.

U.S. observers of China in Afghanistan recall that the Chinese had held talks with Afghan then-Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani some five years ago about possibly extending the CPEC into Afghanistan under the BRI network.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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