Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, June 21st, 2018

China’s Role in Building Trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan

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China’s Role in Building Trust  between Afghanistan and Pakistan

Beijing hosted trilateral strategic dialogue last week to strengthen China-Pakistan-Afghanistan ties and support peace and stability. The three sides reviewed preparation for the second foreign ministerial-level meeting to be held in Kabul in the current year. The issues of peace, counter-terrorism and economic development will be discussed in the upcoming trilateral meeting.
China has played a constructive role in bridging the gap between Kabul and Islamabad and consolidating trilateral relations mainly in recent years. Chinese officials have constantly pushed for mutual trust, peaceful coexistence and friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan so as to pave the ground for face-to-face negotiation between Kabul and the Taliban. That is to say, Pakistan is believed to carry much weight in pressuring the Taliban to come to peace table and Afghan government must not downplay this role. Hence, with a friendly relation between the two countries, the reconciliation process will be more likely to bear the desired result – this is what China endeavors for.
To discuss security and development, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan held a trilateral dialogue of foreign minister for the first time on 26 December 2017, months after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi travelled to Kabul and Islamabad. Beijing held out hope that the meeting could cement mutual ties between Kabul and Islamabad and contribute to regional peace, stability and development.
China and Afghanistan enjoy friendly relation and strong economic tie. The trade between China and Afghanistan increased from US$53 million in 2002 to US$700 million by 2010, when both countries also signed the “Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership Agreement” to extend trade.
China’s interests go beyond economic cooperation and it has opened its door wider to Afghan people to boost heart-to-heart exchanges. The cultural contact and people-to-people exchanges have been enhanced to a great extent in recent years. The mutual understanding and China’s goodwill and constructive role in trade and security gave ground for optimism as Afghan nation views China as a close neighbor.  
In 2014, Chinese Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun , visited Kabul and revealed China’s tendency to work in tandem with Afghanistan to enhance peace and security. Hence, China played an active part in forming the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which was set up in January 2016, to find a solution to the country’s conflict.
It is self-evident that peace in Afghanistan will have a lasting impact on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is of great significance for the country. Having a discussion with South Asian and Asia Pacific journalists last week, Lan Jianxue, the vice research fellow of Department for Developing Countries Studies of CIIS, reiterated the key role of Afghanistan in BRI. According to him, Afghanistan plays an integral role in “trade route” and has “huge potential” for BRI. He maintained that the “accomplishment of peace process” will add to the significance of Afghanistan. Liu hoped that Afghanistan will be a member of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – which is also part of BRI project – in the future. Indeed, if Afghanistan joins CPEC, the relation between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be cemented since both sides will do their best to protect their economic interests.
China seeks to play its role constructively through supporting peace and stability in the region – be it brokering talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan or the United State and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). That is, China is committed in the Five Principles of peaceful coexistence and is intent on resolving issues through communication rather than confrontation since non-violent mechanism is the only solution to political turmoil and tug-of-war between states.
It is hoped that the upcoming trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting will strengthen the relations between the three neighboring countries and revive trust between Afghan-Pak officials. Unlike many regional and international conferences being held regarding counterterrorism and peace issue on Afghanistan without tangible result, the forthcoming meeting is further hoped to bring a positive change to Afghanistan’s security situation.
It is time for Kabul and Islamabad to put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, i.e., the militant fighters, and play their role in the best possible way in bringing in peace and stability.
To sum up, China emerged as the most capable actor to push the peace process forward. In China’s point of view, a stable and peaceful Afghanistan will not only benefit the region but also China. Therefore, China organized trilateral dialogue to foster friendly relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan that will put an end to trust deficit and contribute to peace and security in the country and region.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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