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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
China strives to reconcile Kabul, Islamabad
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited Afghanistan and Pakistan over the weekend, and a trilateral joint statement was signed, which brought hope of relieving Afghanistan-Pakistan tension. According to a joint statement, the three parties agreed to establish the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' dialogue mechanism and Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to establish a crisis management mechanism. These steps will be of significance to stabilize South Asia and strengthen China's cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The two countries, both plagued by terrorism, enjoy a good relationship with China. But the Kabul-Islamabad relationship is periodically interrupted by border disputes and suspicion of the other side's support of terrorism.
The military action launched by the US in Afghanistan in 2001 aimed to root out terrorism, but far from achieving this goal, it instead opened up a Pandora's Box. Without a complete plan to cope with the post-war situation, Washington started to withdraw troops from the country. Now the 8,000-plus American soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan are not very helpful in stabilizing the situation.
New Delhi has strengthened its relationship with Kabul in recent years as India is pursuing its geopolitical interests in the region. But it is doing so more out of a desire to contain Pakistan, and has little effect in addressing the Afghanistan-Pakistan feud.
China is not willing to intervene in peripheral countries' internal affairs, and is especially cautious of any involvement in political conundrums of countries where the US has troops stationed. This time, Afghanistan and Pakistan have brought the request to China, and Beijing, under this situation, has reached out to help mediate.
Stability and the maintenance of normal relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan conform to China's interests, and will contribute to the Belt and Road initiative. Minister Wang's two-day trip has helped establish a crisis management mechanism and the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' dialogue mechanism, and apparently, the latter mechanism will play a significant role in consolidating the former. This is an encouraging start.
There are no quick fixes for the issue. Apart from dispelling misunderstandings and alleviating conflicts of interest, Afghanistan and Pakistan need to stabilize their domestic situations to back their reconciliation. This is not easy. After all, China cannot shape a peaceful, stable and mutually friendly Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship all by itself without efforts from the two countries.
But China is striving for this end. Beijing hopes for peace and prosperity of peripheral countries, and has more resources and influence to promote regional cooperation than before. The Chinese government and society sincerely hope that Afghanistan and Pakistan can overcome the aftereffects of past periods of unrest and catch up with the times. China will continue to be a reliable partner to the two countries in this process.