Hong Kong: The Chinese leadership has come in for harsh criticism from the Afghan government for having invited a Taliban delegation to meet with Chinese officials in Beijing last month.
The team led by Abbas Stanakzai, who is head of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, was reportedly on a five-day visit from July 18-22 to Beijing to meet with Chinese leadership.
The Taliban delegation is said to have conveyed to the Chinese side about the “occupation of the invading forces and their atrocities on Afghan people”. The Taliban official also stated that “we have good terms with different countries of the world and China is one among them”. Taliban sources told the press that it hopes the Chinese government could help bring global attention to the issue in Afghanistan and “help us get freedom from occupying forces.”
China has not officially commented on the talks but it is among the four countries – the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (comprising of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US) which is part of the Afghanistan peace process that involves bringing the Taliban on board all future solutions.
China has held several meetings with the Taliban in the past decade because of concerns that Uighur militants had begun taking shelter in Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan.
In December 2000, China sought assurance from Mullah Omar that the Taliban would not allow Uyghur militants to conduct operations against China. In return, China agreed to give political recognition to the Taliban government. Pakistan’s powerful ISI and Army have often been the enthusiastic intermediaries in the relationship.
China has maintained direct links with the Taliban leadership at various levels since 2001. Since 2012 however, the focus has broadened beyond the Uyghur issue. It now focusses around security of Chinese investments in Afghanistan and preventing the members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for terrorist activities in China.
Despite being in bed with the Taliban, China has inexplicably even enhanced its engagement with the present Afghan government especially in the area of security. In a span of less than two years, China has signed at least four Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in the areas of security, border protection and supply of security equipment.
In February this year, a high-level visit by a Chinese military delegation headed by Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army, formalized millions of dollars worth of military hardware in aid to Afghanistan. These include machine guns, hand grenades, portable explosive detectors, frequency jamming devices and handheld metal detectors.
The Chinese side would not confirm the grocery list that the Afghans gave but the official press release said “Both sides are willing to further deepen military exchanges in various fields and strengthen pragmatic cooperation in counterterrorism, training and training of personnel in order to contribute to safeguarding regional security.”
The first tranche arrived on a Russian carrier in July this year in Kabul.
China now is major and reliable supplier of arms for the Afghan government even though Beijing continues its dalliance with the Taliban. But it has always been Chinese strategy, right from the days of the Mujahideen in the 1980s, to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare.
China is building up its influence with the official Afghan government to keep its business interests safe and be a potent political force in the region. Simultaneously it has emerged as a security pole in South Asia with Pakistan providing major back up support. (ANI)