China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday surprisingly landed in Kabul following his visit to Pakistan and is on his way to India, where he is expected to touch Indian ground this evening.
Chinese envoy’s maiden visit to Afghanistan
This is the Chinese envoy’s maiden visit to Afghanistan since the Taliban’s return following the American army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. Mr. Wang had previously met with the Taliban, hosting a delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, near Beijing, in July last year, just before the Taliban retook the country for the second time.
Most nations, including India, shut down their embassies following the Taliban takeover. China emphasized its comfort with the Taliban by keeping its mission open, and in recent months, the Taliban has courted Chinese investment, although Beijing has only provided limited financial support so far amid the unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
China wants to start work in Afghanistan
This month, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said talks were under way with China’s Metallurgical Group Corporation over re-starting work in the massive Mes Aynak copper mine and that a Chinese team would arrive by the end of March.
They will be physically in Kabul in March and will discuss the issue with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, “Esmatullah Borhan, spokesman of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum,” told Afghanistan’s TOLO News, with plans to resume a stalled project that includes “construction of a railway from Torkham border to Hairatan Port, a thermal power plant with a capacity of four hundred megawatts, the construction of Mes Aynak road, and copper processing inside Afghanistan.”
The security situation there, however, remains a concern for Chinese companies, an issue that is expected to figure in Mr. Wang’s short visit.
Wang Yi visits Pakistan this week
The Chinese Foreign Minister, who was in Pakistan earlier this week, discussed with Prime Minister Imran Khan plans to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Khan as saying that “China-Afghanistan-Pakistan cooperation is conducive to stability in Afghanistan and its role as a hub in regional connectivity” and that Pakistan “is ready to work with China to jointly advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.”
China, Pakistan discussion on Afghanistan
China and Pakistan have previously spoken about aligning their Afghanistan strategies, with both sharing good relations with the Taliban.
Mr. Wang also discussed Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa. Criticising the West, he said “the Afghan issue should not be solved by exerting pressure or imposing sanctions, but by drawing on the wisdom of the East to promote dialogue and communication.”
Both China and Pakistan encourage the ruling authorities of Afghanistan to actively build an open and inclusive political architecture, implement moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, and resolutely combat terrorism in all its forms, “he said.
China abstains from criticising Afghanistan
Despite its calls for “inclusion”, Beijing has largely refrained from criticising the Taliban for its policies. China has, however, called on the Taliban to “make a clean break” and cut ties with terrorist groups, particularly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which China has blamed for attacks in its western Xinjiang region.
Reference to Kashmir
He also mentioned the Kashmir issue, saying that “on Kashmir, we have heard again today the calls of many of our Islamic friends. And China shares the same hope. “
That reference brought a sharp response from India a day ahead of Mr. Wang’s arrival. The Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday, “We reject the uncalled reference to India by the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, during his speech at the Opening Ceremony.”
Matters related to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are entirely the internal affairs of India. Other countries, including China, have no locus standi to comment. They should note that India refrains from public judgement on their internal issues. “