Concerned over the potential spillover of militants from Kabul into the country’s western Xinjiang, China has stepped in and engaged with the new Taliban government, promising trade and investment, Afghan Diaspora Network reported.
More than a year after the United States and NATO pulled out of the Central Asian country, China is one of the few countries that kept their embassies open in Afghanistan even after the Taliban took over in August 2021.
It is worth mentioning that the Taliban during its first rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 had harboured a number of foreign extremist groups, including Uyghur militants.
China is primarily interested in Afghanistan for security related and specifically preventing any breach of militancy in the Uyghur areas of China. Still, the Taliban’s attack kept Beijing from maintaining its relationship with them.
On December 12, 2022, the attack on Kabul’s hotel, which is frequently visited by Chinese nationals, further aggravated Beijing’s concerns. The Chinese government responded by advising its citizens and companies “to leave and evacuate the country as soon as possible.”
During a regular press conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China was “deeply shocked” and “demands the Afghan side spare no efforts in searching for and rescuing Chinese individuals, and at the same time open a comprehensive investigation, severely punish the attackers, and earnestly strengthen the protection of Chinese citizens and organisations in Afghanistan,” Reuters quoted Wang as saying at a news conference in Beijing.
After this, Taliban spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi informed that the Chinese Ambassador had called on the Taliban “to pay attention” to the security of Beijing’s diplomatic mission in Kabul, according to Afghan Diaspora Network.
Earlier, in 2021, the report noted that the Uyghur militants of the Turkistan Islamic Party, widely accepted as an alias of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have been active in both Afghanistan and Syria
They seek to establish an Uyghur state in Xinjiang, China, and towards that goal, facilitate the movement of fighters from Afghanistan to China. Chinese officials, who have met the Taliban on a number of occasions, have emphasized that Afghanistan take “resolute” measures to crack down on “all terrorist forces, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement” (ETIM). While the U.S. removed the ETIM from its terror list in 2020, China continues to designate it as a threat, as per the Afghan Diaspora Network report.
While China is concerned about the spillover of extremism from Afghanistan, the Taliban are “frustrated” by the empty Chinese economic and development promises. In 2016, China signed a BRI agreement with the former Afghan government and promised to fund USD 100 million in projects, but so far no BRI projects have been implemented in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, the Chinese foreign ministry announced (Jul 2022) that “China hopes to push the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of Afghanistan, support the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, and share China’s development opportunities”. It seems that Beijing talks of big investments, but there is practically no delivery on the ground, according to Afghan Diaspora Network.(ANI)