China, Pakistan join hands with Taliban in Belt & Road project

China, Pakistan join hands with Taliban in Belt & Road project

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met in Islamabad on Saturday and pledged to work together on Afghanistan's reconstruction process, including taking the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to the Taliban-ruled nation.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, May 08, 2023, 10:04 AM IST
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China, Pakistan join hands with Taliban in Belt & Road project |

The Taliban has decided to align itself with China and Pakistan to create land and sea infrastructural links as part of the Belt and Road Initiative – the centrepiece of China’s foreign policy, which is designed to facilitate economic activity within and beyond Asia.

The cash-strapped Taliban government has agreed to be drawn into the project enthused at the prospect of getting much needed infrastructure investment in the sanctions-hit country. Taps were turned off on international aid, which accounted for 60 per cent of public spending, after the chaotic withdrawal of US troops in 2021.

Though President Xi Jinping's flagship Belt and Road initiative started almost a decade ago, serious questions remained about Afghanistan’s incorporation in the project. Chinese businesses have been wary of investing in Afghanistan due to attacks by the Islamic State group, which is vying with the Taliban for influence. In December, the militant group took credit for an attack at a Kabul hotel popular with Chinese diplomats and businessmen.

There's also the nagging presence of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a Xinjiang-based separatist group that's kept Beijing rather cautious about expanding its footprint.

All three countries delegates met in Islamabad

In prelude to the agreement with Taliban, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met in Islamabad on Saturday and pledged to work together on Afghanistan's reconstruction process, including taking the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to the Taliban-ruled nation.

"The two sides agreed to continue their humanitarian and economic assistance for the Afghan people and enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan, including through extension of CPEC to Afghanistan," according to a joint statement issued by Pakistan's foreign ministry following the meeting.

The Taliban's top diplomat, Amir Khan Muttaqi, too travelled to Islamabad to meet his Chinese and Pakistani counterparts and have reached an agreement, his deputy spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad said by phone.

The Taliban is depending on China to harness the country's rich resources, estimated to be $1 trillion. The government inked its first contract in January with a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation to extract oil from the northern Amu Darya basin.

China, Russia, and Iran are among a handful of countries that maintain cordial ties with the Taliban. They have provided aid in tens of millions of dollars to the Taliban, but have stopped short of formally recognizing the government.

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