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CPEC — a solution to the Kashmir issue?

In December 2017, China offered the Afghan government a chance to become part of their ambitious $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At the same time, they made it clear that the project was not in any way directed against India and that no third party should be concerned with its progress. This came after India complained that the corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)in Pakistan-administered Kashmir which is a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

After negotiating a border stand-off at Doklam Plateau (China-Bhutan disputed border) both India and China indicated that they wanted to build peaceful relations by solving their bilateral disputes through diplomacy instead of armed conflicts. Pakistan wants to follow the same path, and open a dialogue with India in order for CPEC to develop without any problems. However, another solution could be that the government of Pakistan could instead refer to the people of this region. The Kashmiris and the people of GB could also be brought into the loop. They could finally have the plebiscite that was promised these people by the UNCIP resolution so many years ago.  But this will never happen.

Pakistan fears the outcome of the plebiscite. Why do you think Pakistan has been so reluctant to grant GB provincial status? The usual response from Islamabad is that its due to its disputed nature yet the reality is quite different.

After the 18th amendment was passed under Asif Ali Zardari’s government, provinces were granted a semblance of autonomy. However, if GB was given provincial status, it would control its own economic and administrative polices and could claim a larger share of the benefits from CPEC. Another reason was their small population size of only two million people. If they were granted provincial status then the people of FATA, Southern Punjab, the Potohar region and Karachi could also end up demanding provincial status and full autonomy. Thus, by issuing Order 2018, Islamabad has made certain that the centre continues to enjoy the economic benefits and administrative powers that would’ve instead been under the control of the people of GB themselves.

In case of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), Islamabad amended the Interim Act of 1974. The legislative, monetary and administrative status of the Kashmir Council has been reduced to an advisory role, with all powers reverted to the office of the prime minister. By reinforcing Section 7 of the Interim Act, and adding an additional clause, the government has essentially restricted the freedom movement in AJK and disillusioned the locals.

In October 2017, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani categorically said that his country would join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) only if Islamabad allows connectivity between India and Afghanistan. Mentioning sovereignty issues raised by India, Ghani also warned that if Afghanistan was not given transit access to Wagah and Attari for trade with India via Pakistan, then Kabul would also restrict Islamabad’s access to central Asia. When Pakistan and India both reluctant to sit down for a civilised talk, China decided to use backdoor channels to open a dialogue with India and convince them to cooperate with Pakistan. As a result, an Indian delegation was spotted at a March 23 parade in Islamabad, and later the same year at the Shanghai Co-operation Summit.

“What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir”

Now there is an interim government in charge. They have limited powers and this provides the establishment a freehand. As a first step the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) on May,29 2018 (soon after the announcement of interim PM) tweeted the first sign of the establishment’s anticipated strategy to calm tensions with India. The director generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement on the border, including the LOC in AJK. India for their part realise that the only time relations with their neighbours to the West got better, was under Musharraf’s rule, which is why they believe talking to the establishment will lead to better results with respect to CPEC. If this turns out to be true, then India will be given the green light to join CPEC in the coming weeks. It would benefit them greatly as it would open up markets in central Asia, and, at the same time, ease tensions with Pakistan.

 

In the end, CPEC seems like a great opportunity for all countries involved yet there is one important community that is being ignored in all of this, the people of GB and AJK. If there had been a strong and unified leadership in the region then perhaps they could have used this opportunity to pressurise Pakistan, and India in to giving them more autonomy and letting them be in charge of their own fate.

However, current leaders are not brave enough to make these sacrifices and are, instead, happy to take whatever scraps Islamabad throws at them. What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of GB and AJK. Only then can the years of oppression they have suffered through finally come to a stop and its citizens get the freedom they have craved for so long.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/250530/cpec-a-solution-to-the-kashmir-issue/

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Extending CPEC to Afghanistan

Many believe that Afghanistan’s involvement in CPEC, even if only modest, can be a big confidence-building measure for an Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship which has been tense for quite some time now. In the long run, through Afghanistan, China is planning to gradually connect the CPEC with the China-Central and Western Asia Economic Corridor.  China is confident   about Afghanistan’s joining CPEC. According to Chinese Foreign Minister, as an   important neighbor of China and Pakistan, Afghanistan has an urgent desire to develop its economy and improve people’s livelihood and it is willing to integrate itself into the process of regional interconnection.

On February 28, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani while speaking at a peace conference in Kabul offered peace talks “without preconditions” to the Taliban after 16 years of war. He also declared that his government wants to make a fresh start as far as relations with Pakistan are concerned. The offer called for a ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners and included a promise to extend official recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group as well as including the group in the political process and review of the country’s Constitution. What Afghan President has offered can form a basis of significant and substantive peace process that could lead to restoration of durable peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan. It is, perhaps, for the first time that no pre-conditions have been attached to talks with the Taliban.  From Pakistan’s perspective peace in Afghanistan is very important for smooth regional connectivity of CPEC.

China has played a critical role in bringing a change in Afghanistan’s attitude towards Pakistan and the Taliban. On December 26, 2017, the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was held in Beijing. The two most important takeaways from this trilateral dialogue were Beijing’s readiness to play a constructive role in improving Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and decision on extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.

One of the main objectives of China to extend CPEC connectivity to Afghanistan is to create   conducive environment for regional connectivity in the broader perspective of its Belt and Road Initiative. The CPEC could help Afghanistan reduce its dependence on foreign aid as well as provide both Kabul and Islamabad with an opportunity to improve ties. Trilateral cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China on Belt and Road would benefit all three countries. Pakistan considers China’s enhanced involvement in Afghanistan as a stabilising factor to counter the negative fallout of Indian influence in Afghanistan. On the contrary, India might be alarmed by the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan.

For a landlocked country like Afghanistan, CPEC is of vital importance in geo-strategic sense. With the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan, the country can become a major beneficiary of this project as in future the corridor will contribute to the economic development of this brittle country by enhancing economic activities in the area which can put the fragile economy of Afghanistan on a sound footing.

There are several connectivity projects that Pakistan, China and Afghanistan can undertake.  The important road projects that may be included in the CPEC connectivity to Afghanistan are: 265 km Peshawar to Kabul motorway and the road   link connecting western alignment of CPEC to Afghanistan by linking Chaman to Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif  to Termez near the border of Central Asian countries. This route will provide an easy and short access to Afghanistan to reach the sea port of Gwadar which is almost 600 kilometres shorter than the existing transit route being used by the traders and people of Afghanistan This connection will integrate Afghanistan with other regions and also allow her to start commercial activities through the Indian Ocean.

CPEC is bringing industrialization and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will benefit Afghanistan as well. Pakistan has already undertaken the building of several roads to improve connectivity between the two countries. The 75 km Torkham-Jalalabad road is one of them while the Peshawar-Torkham road is another. These developments have faced considerable completion challenges; they are a step toward increasing connectivity with Pakistan and, in turn, gaining Afghan access to CPEC.  A railway track may be built between Torkham and Jalalabad in Afghanistan to facilitate China to use the Pakistan Railways network to transport goods and equipment for the development of copper mines and various other projects in Afghanistan. Separately, Pakistan Railways has completed a feasibility study for a rail section between Chaman and Kandahar, a part of a proposed link across Afghanistan to Turkmenistan.

China can expect a lot of economic benefits by investing in Afghanistan. Such investments will strengthen Chinese projects in Pakistan, and also help China to access natural resources in Afghanistan. Afghanistan also has the abundant potential of hydroelectricity which Chinese companies can tap and sell in Pakistan. For instance Pakistan and Afghanistan are moving towards the joint management of common rivers starting with construction of a 1,500MW hydropower project on Kunar River — a major tributary of Kabul River contributing almost 13 million acres feet (MAF) annually to Pakistan. China may help them in completing this project. Further the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan may help in identifying projects relating to communications, railways, transit trade and the power sector.

Central Asian Region being physically attached to Wakhan Corridor, Pakistan can utilise its value by linking the corridor with its northern highlands most suitably along the Chitral River and improvement of existing route from Chitral to Afghanistan. This 250 km long route should start from Broghal Pass linking Mastuj, Booni, and Chitral and should link Afghanistan.  The proposed route will serve as subsidiary to Karakorum Highway for China and Pakistan as an instrument re-driving influence of India in Afghanistan.

The northeastern Badakhshan province of Afghanistan is bordering China, Pakistan and Tajikistan through Wakhan Corridor. The province has large scale natural resources such as Azure, Gold, Ruby and Diamond mines in addition to Copper and Iron.  Pakistan and China can help Afghanistan in exploring these natural resources. Construction of the Lowari tunnel will turn the Wakhan corridor into an all-weather route for connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

China is keen on accessing Afghanistan’s large reserves through its state-owned enterprises (SOE), and has the monetary resources to invest in developing the infrastructure for procurement. As such, Afghanistan should be open to such investments and operating deals, which will benefit the country in the long run. In addition, such a move will bring forth much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) to the cash-strapped country.

There are already some investments from Pakistan to build connecting roads, as mentioned above. Afghanistan should focus its attention on finishing the stalled projects and building confidence in the country’s ability to complete existing infrastructure undertakings. To develop the small-scale energy and transportation industries that could easily fit into the CPEC structure once Afghanistan joins. In this respect the government of Afghanistan has taken a right step of offering peace talks to the Taliban.  Any positive development in Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan and initiation of peace talks with the Taliban may create a favorable environment for investment in CPEC connectivity projects in Afghanistan.

Source: https://pakobserver.net/extending-cpec-afghanistan/

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China sees Afghanistan as critical to retaining its hegemony over trade across Asia: Report

LAHORE: China is competing with India for geo-political influence in war-torn Afghanistan, as it moves ahead to forge closer economic ties and maintain its hegemony over trade across Asia.

A report in Forbes said China is seeking closer economic ties with Afghanistan, a country ravaged by conflict and war since the 1970’s.

Afghanistan, which is a poor and landlocked country is viewed by the Chinese as a major spot for new highways and railways, which would assist it in increasing trade for both sides, said experts.

Although, Spanish financial firm Santander Trade says investor rarely put Afghanistan in their top lists for investor protection as it is ranked below of Europe, United States and South Asia.

In a comment to Forbes, Professor of Strategic Management at Deakin University in Australia, Stuart Orr said “China would probably see the instability in Afghanistan as more of an opportunity than would most countries.”

But Chinese designs are being thwarted by increasing Indian investment in Afghanistan, where it is providing funding to build dams, roads and hospitals, said Mohan Malik, Professor at Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

Also, another risk cited to Forbes by Sameer Lalwani, Senior associate and South Asia Program co-director at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington stated “Afghani “non-state actors” have the power to support for anti-government Muslims in the nearby Chinese region of Xinjiang.”

Mr. Lalwani added the Chinese see the mining industry and other extractive potential in Afghanistan, but it is offset by the high stabilization costs and front-end conflict management.

He said the key strategic prerogative of China in Afghanistan would be to control instability and prevent it from spilling out to its other economic equities in the region.

In a larger context, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has extreme significance since two railway lines are being planned and Pakistan is welcoming Beijing’s investments into its infrastructure.

China’s border with Afghanistan runs over 76 kilometers, but the Pakistan-Afghan line runs over 4,250 kilometers, said Forbes.

The extension of a road or railway across the longer border would be a very easy option, which could open transportation avenues to oil-rich Iran and maybe even Turkey, reported Forbes.

According to Orr “From a long-term perspective, establishing a trade route through Pakistan and Afghanistan would introduce the option of increasing the ease of trading directly with Iran, from whom China currently gets the bulk of its oil and has significant two-way trade. Establishing a direct trade route to Iran would then open the doors to increased trade with Turkey.”

Afghanistan counts China as amongst its largest investors and in 2007, a Chinese entity entered into a 30-year lease for $3 billion of Aynak copper mine.

And both countries have already established a railway link in September 2016, which has reduced shipment times from six months by road to two weeks, says Santander Trade.

The railway link has permitted freight to travel from far eastern China to Afghanistan’s rail port of Hairatan.

Source: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/28/china-sees-afghanistan-as-critical-to-retaining-its-hegemony-over-trade-across-asia-report/

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Gwadar and Chabahar different since inception: Manish Tewari

WASHINGTON: Former Union Minister of State in India, Manish Tewari has made comparisons between Gwadar port in Pakistan and Chabahar port in Iran, stating that Gwadar is a long-term strategic venture by Pakistan and China, whereas Chabahar is an entirely commercial enterprise by Iran and India.

The geopolitically instrumental port of Gwadar in southern Balochistan province is being built with the help of China under a multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Chabahar port in Iran is being considered by India, Iran and Afghanistan as a gateway to major opportunities for trade with central Asian countries, and also to counter the increasing military and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China in the region.

“One thing which needs to be very clearly understood is that Chabahar port is a commercial enterprise and Gwadar port is a strategic military enterprise. There is a distinction between as to why two projects have been conceived,” Tewari said yesterday while addressing an event organised by the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.

Similarly, China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is not a connectivity project, the Congress leader asserted, adding that it is a strategic project by which China seeks access to the Arabian Sea and surmount the Straits of Malacca through Gwadar and entire CPEC paradigm. “As such, there is no comparison between Gwadar and Chabahar,” he added.

“And if you couple that with the kind of things that the Chinese have been attempting to do in the Indian Ocean, the influence that they’ve been trying to exert on Sri Lanka, with the developments which they are currently playing themselves out in the Maldives, it does not go well for the region,” he said.

“And therefore, the United States will have to make some hard choices,” the Congress leader said, indicating that the hard choice is a short-term accommodation with Iran. “Those are the hard conversations which the US needs to start having with itself,” he said. “And therefore, at some point in time hard decisions and clear choices need to be made,” said Tewari, a distinguished Senior Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council.

Chief Advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Dr Mohammad H Qayoumi, said this is for the first time in a 100 years that Central Asian countries look at Afghanistan as part of that entity. “We are becoming part of that economic ecosystem,” he said.

“We started an air corridor with New Delhi that has been very successful. We are looking at expanding that to Mumbai this year as well as the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and even Indonesia all who have shown interest,” Qayoumi said.

Source: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/02/gwadar-and-chabahar-different-since-inception-manish-tewari/

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How China and Pakistan could lay the Road to Peace in Afghanistan

Referred to as an interminable and protracted war, the ongoing US-led war in Afghanistan is becoming a stalemate with no end in sight in the near or long term. Since the violence and bloodshed have been the most common phenomenon in an already war-torn region, the war is perhaps an inevitable part of the life being led by the Afghan people for the past decades, while any attempt to bring peace in the region is bound to meet rabid resistance owing to the conflict of interest among the concerned stakeholders who seem to be at odds with each other, following their own agenda or list of priorities under the guise of peace-building efforts.

Despite all its military might, the US war in Afghanistan, which has seen two phases (Operation Enduring Freedom 2001–2014 and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel 2015 to the present), is yet to achieve a face-saving end, while Donald Trump’s particular style of achieving results is making it even more unlikely to bring the Afghan war to an acceptable end not only for the United States, but also for its key partners and other countries in the region. The US’s arm-twisting tactics against Pakistan to ‘do more’ are at its limits and the recent aid suspension to its tested ally has not paid off.

The US State Department, for instance, has informed Congress that the US government’s decision to suspend its security assistance to Pakistan has so far failed to achieve its objective: forcing Islamabad to change its policies. “There certainly hasn’t been any change that we would consider final and irrevocable. They have engaged in discussions with us, but there hasn’t been a sufficient amount of action yet that we would be lifting that suspension of security assistance.” say John Sullivan, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.

Commander US Central Command (Centcom) General Joseph L Votel has candidly accepted the fact that Pakistan happens to be an important US ally when it comes to maintaining peace and security in South Asia and to ensure peace in the Afghan region, it is important that the strategy to bring the Taliban to the table be implemented speedily.

“We are very busily implementing our South Asia strategy, which is designed to bring the Taliban to the reconciliation table and end this very, very lengthy conflict (in Afghanistan),” says General Votel.

Short of options

With its flawed approach towards Pakistan, the US seems to be short of options at the moment. However, the initiation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has emerged as a silver lining for the war-torn region. This is because China wants to extend the $57 billion CPEC to Afghanistan, and as per Afghan media, after the inclusion of Afghanistan, the name of the corridor will be changed into China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CAPEC), as part of China’s ambitious BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

This is the time the Afghan leadership should come forward and decide how long a troubled Afghanistan can afford the ongoing war as well as the consistent loss of innocent lives.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

According to Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Kabul could become part of economic activities going on in the region and, for this reason, China is ready to play its role for resumption of a peace process for bringing stability in Afghanistan. “The recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are our concern and we are ready to play a role for resumption of the peace process. Both Pakistan and China are close neighbors and we desire a peaceful Afghanistan,” says Yao Jing.

Since both Pakistan and Afghanistan have been uneasy neighbors ever since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, China has tried to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the diplomatic ties between both the countries have been severed, as Afghanistan accuses Pakistan for supporting Taliban militants who have been fighting the U.S. forces to limit the influence of India in Afghanistan.

Speaking after the first trilateral meeting, which was held between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wang said the economic corridor connecting China, Pakistan and Afghanistan could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development the war-torn region needs desperately. He said Afghanistan has an urgent need to develop and improve people’s lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives.

“So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan,” according to Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador.

If actualized into action, the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan will serve a long way in bringing about the much-needed stability in Afghanistan and will positively impact the socio-economic condition of the Afghan nation. However, it needs a paradigm shift the way the U.S. wants to see things taking place in the region, which seems unlikely at the moment, considering the ground realities. This is the time the Afghan leadership should come forward and decide how long a troubled Afghanistan can afford the ongoing war as well as the consistent loss of innocent lives. In Afghanistan, it is likely that the road to peace will now passing through CPEC.

Source: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/02/12/How-China-and-Pakistan-could-lay-the-Road-to-Peace-in-Afghanistan.html

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Afghanistan looks to reduce dependence on Pakistan via Chabahar Port

LAHORE: In a bid to reduce its dependence on Pakistan, Afghanistan has shifted 80 per cent of its cargo traffic from Pakistan’s Karachi seaport to Iran’s Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports. The move caused in part by a new trade tariff imposed by Pakistan comes barely two months after the inauguration of Iran’s Chabahar Port.

Chabahar being Afghanistan’s closest link to the Indian Ocean is expected to get a larger share of Afghanistan’s trade in the future. According to Asia Times, $ 5 billion worth of Afghan trade will be conducted solely through the tripartite Chabahar Port, sponsored jointly by India, Iran, and Afghanistan, once it starts feeding the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

“Afghanistan is no longer dependent on Pakistan for the shipment of goods as it can now use Iran’s Chabahar Port for this purpose, said Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah while talking to the media in November last year indicating the impending move.

In the current fiscal year, the trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan that stood at $ 2.5 billion has fallen to $ 500 million due to deteriorating relations between the two countries.

On the other hand, Afghanistan’s trade relations with India seem to be moving in the right direction.  “On a reciprocal basis, Afghanistan opened a second aerial corridor for India, enabling India to establish a direct trade link between Mumbai and Kabul. The first flight took 40 tonnes of dried and fresh fruits and medicinal herbs to India through the aerial route,” said Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Director Zia Ul Haq Sarhadi while talking to Asia Times.

The loss of Afghanistan’s cargo trade is expected to adversely affect the Pakistani economy that is already facing a widening trade deficit and worsening balance of payments. According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) figures, in the five months (July to November 2017) Pakistan’s trade deficit increased to $ 15.03 billion, mainly because of a 16.4 per cent increase in CPEC related imports compared to the previous year. The figure is expected to hit $ 35 billion by the end of fiscal 2017-18 if growth remains stagnant.

The widening trade deficit has also put pressure on the country’s foreign reserves which are gradually shrinking. A potential economic crisis looms as the reserves are estimated at around $ 14.66 billion with Pakistan expected to make foreign debts servicing payments by the end of June 2018.

“It is unfortunate that trade under CPEC is facilitated by the government and Afghan transit and bilateral trade is totally ignored,” Sarhadi further said.

The current situation calls for Pakistan to re-evaluate its priorities. While CPEC promises much for the future, the country’s high-ups need to assess the impact of their current policies on the overall economy and make needed adjustments.

Source: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/04/afghanistan-looks-to-reduce-dependence-on-pakistan-via-chabahar-port/

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China in talks over military base in remote Afghanistan: officials

KABUL: Worried about militants sneaking into a restive Chinese region from war-torn Afghanistan, Beijing is in talks with Kabul over the construction of a military base, Afghan officials say, as it seeks to shore up its fragile neighbour.

The army camp will be built in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols.

The freezing, barren panhandle of land — bordering China’s tense Xinjiang region — is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives.

However they retain strong links with neighbours in Xinjiang, and with so few travellers in the region local interest in the Chinese visitors has been high, residents told AFP on a recent visit there.

China’s involvement in the base comes as President Xi Jinping seeks to extend Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The Chinese are pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure in South Asia. With Afghanistan’s potential to destabilise the region, analysts said any moves there would be viewed through the prism of security.

Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are passing through the Wakhan into Xinjiang to carry out attacks.

It also worries that Islamic State group militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan to enter China, analysts say.

Afghan and Chinese officials discussed the plan in December in Beijing, but details are still being clarified, Afghan defence ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said.

“We are going to build it (the base) but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he told AFP recently.

A senior Chinese embassy official in Kabul would only say Beijing is involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan.

NATO’s US-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan declined to comment. But US officials have previously welcomed China’s role in Afghanistan, noting they share the same security concerns.

Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority in Wakhan told AFP in October they had been seeing Chinese and Afghan military patrols for months.

“The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army,” said Abdul Rashid, a Kyrgyz chief, adding that he had seen vehicles flying Chinese flags.

The Afghan army arrived days earlier “and told us that the Chinese army would be coming here”, he said, adding: “We were strictly told not to go near them or talk to them and not to take any photos.”

Rashid’s account was confirmed by other Kyrgyz, including another chief Jo Boi, who said the Chinese military spent almost a year in Wakhan before leaving in March 2017.

Both Chinese and Afghan officials deny the claims, with China’s defence ministry telling AFP that the “Chinese army is not engaged in any military operation in the Wakhan Corridor”.

With little access to the corridor, Kabul provides almost no services to those who live there — but the Chinese, Boi said, have been bringing “a lot of food and warm clothes”.

“They are very good people, very kind,” he told AFP.

After their March visit, he said, they returned in June for roughly a month. “Since then they come every month… to distribute food.”

China fears militancy could threaten its growing economic interests in the region, Ahmad Bilal Khalil, a researcher at the Kabul-based Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, told AFP.

“They need to have a secure Afghanistan,” he said, estimating Beijing had provided Kabul with more than $70 million in military aid in the past three years.

It recently flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan.

Source: https://arynews.tv/en/china-talks-military-base-remote-afghanistan-officials/

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China denies plan to build military base in Afghanistan

BEIJING: 

China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday denied that it was planning to build a military base in Afghanistan, branding such reports “groundless”.

Russian news agency Ferghana News, which focuses on Central Asia, has reported that China will build the military base in Afghanistan.

The report was picked up last week by US magazine The Diplomat and then in Chinese state media.

China likely to build military base in Pakistan: US

Speaking at a regular news briefing, ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said that the two countries had normal security cooperation and that China like other countries was supporting Afghanistan in defence and counter-terrorism.

“The so-called issue that China is building a military base in Afghanistan is groundless,” Wu said.

The ministry has also previously dismissed reports that Chinese military vehicles were patrolling inside Afghanistan.

China slams Pentagon report on overseas military bases

China has long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan could spill over into the violence-prone Xinjiang region in China’s far west, home to the Muslim Uighur people, where hundreds of people have died in recent years in unrest blamed by China on militants.

China has also worked with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency that has raged since the militants were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.

China opened its first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti, last year. China has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects China to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.

Source: The Express Tribune, 25th January 2018.