In the last two decades China has kept an eye on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, but has not directly involved itself on a large scale in Afghanistan’s domestic politics. Now this position seems to be changing; Afghanistan has been emerging as a strategic focal point in the regional scenario.
The People Republic of China, as an international player, as an important neighbor of Afghanistan, as a permanent member of the UN security council, as a super power and most significantly as a neighboring country that has neither posed a threat nor it harmed Afghans, must interlink its strategic priorities with a permanently secured and stable Afghanistan.
Furthermore, China enjoy the following advantages that other stakeholder lack, making it upper handed to play the role of an important “honest deal broker.”
1- This country has consistently promotes Afghan-led and Afghan-owned policy, respects the country’s independence and sovereignty, and actively promotes political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
2- China has never interfered militarily. Hence, it has a relatively positive political image in Afghanistan.
3- It also enjoys a rigid friendship with Pakistan, which holds the play card to bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Having above positive aspects, it is good to know that China is expanding its influence in a country that is geopolitically important, particularly at a time when the U.S. is planning to drastically cut back its military forces in Afghanistan.
Strengthening ties with Afghanistan and helping Afghans in bringing stability to the country, China would not only be supporting the people of the war ravaged country, but would also be a significant achievement for Beijing to permanently block contacts between the Taliban and China’s militant groups. The positive development in this regard is that China’s Afghan policy has been obviously changed from premeditated indifference to proactive engagement. Besides, we know that China is undoubtedly the most well-placed country to play its due role in helping Afghans to take the peace process towards success.
The realities on the ground and the true scenario of the war torn country at this time is that the NATO and Afghan forces are seemingly failed to contain the violence while peace negotiations initiated and launched by US special envoy Dr Khalilzad seem unproductive. Having sacrificed thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars, the Americans, due to their imbalanced and inconsistent policies have lost the trust of the Afghan people. Contrary to some perceptions, Taliban have finally been realizing that their victory through bloodshed is impossible. China is geographically and economically having potentials and capabilities to find way out of the current complicated security situations in Afghanistan.
No matter how difficult it is to convince Taliban leadership to have direct talks with Afghan government, but we are sure that if we do not ignore the ground realities, either now or then, the inter-Afghan peace negotiations and political settlement is imperative and will ultimately get under way.
In addition, we foresee prospect of success of China to attain the cooperation of Washington and Moscow, where the interests of these countries mostly converge in Afghanistan. China Russia and regional countries, each has different views on some explicit considerations, but their objectives mostly align and they could agree now in principle to back any agreement among Afghans that brings lasting peace to the war torn country.
Considering the convergence of common interests, China as country that has neither harmed Afghanistan nor it has current and potential disputes with, needs to initiate or work on a solution that is acceptable to all sides, strongly support the commencement of the process of getting to an agreement through a ceasefire, infra-Afghan dialogue and provoke constructive engagement of neighboring and other regional countries.
Afghans as well as China do not want the permanent presence of US while both countries do not accept Taliban in exclusive control of Afghanistan, but we all expect some role for the Taliban in a future Afghan state.
The easiest way to get there, China having consolidating its efforts with Russia and Washington need to push for a ceasefire, facilitate inter- Afghans talks, and gain regional support. The United States enjoy its influence to work with its Afghan government and involve India and European countries, while China and Russia could encourage the Taliban, Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian states.
No doubt that the backing of international community through the UN Security Council will have its ultimate role to make the agreement durable, as any peace deal require monitoring and enforcement. Security Council endorsement will strongly fortify the peace process, its aftermath, and whatever procedure is ultimately agreed for enforcement of the peace agreement.
What China seems to be doing in Afghanistan is persistently driving the talks to a possible political solution and on the sidelines seeking stability from all the players as well as increasing its economic profile. For this purpose, China not only engaged in a bilateral framework but was also proactive in bringing the Taliban and Pakistan to the table with the Afghan government and the United States.
What China seems to be doing in Afghanistan is persistently driving the talks to a possible political solution and on the sidelines seeking stability from all the players as well as increasing its economic profile
China’s active role in Afghanistan’s peace process shows that it has high expectations of its renewed international policy push. In addition, we must be sure that these efforts would finally conclude and result in political solution and hence, China’s international profile might increase regarding Afghanistan reconciliation.
Utilizing its influence on Pakistan, China, can play a significant role as a broker by motivating Pakistan to pressurize and make it clear to Taliban that their only road to victory and political legitimacy is through a peaceful political process and that the peace settlement can only be achieved through direct negotiation and within their productive engagement with Afghan government and that their goal of a return to power through military means would lead the movement to totally international isolation.
Moreover, there should be a clear message to Afghan government and their allies that the realities on the ground are indicating that a permanent peace settlement with Taliban is seemingly impossible without bringing major fundamental changes in political set up of the Afghanistan.
We firmly believe that Chinese leadership has the logic to convince Afghan government and the Taliban leaders to understand that the current disaster and constant insecurity in Afghanistan would not only block the way of the country towards progress and development but will also weaken the entire region.
By Abdul Waheed Waheed