• Monday, October 03, 2022

ASIA

China offers to host Afghan peace talks, backs leading role for Ghani government

A policeman stands guard at a checkpoint as an internally displaced family flees the fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters, on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand province May 5, 2021. (Photo by SIFATULLAH ZAHIDI/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

CHINA, which has stepped up its diplomacy between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of the US troops’ withdrawal from the war-torn country, has offered to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who in the last two days held telephone talks with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts, said China will back the Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani in playing a leading role.

The offer to facilitate peace talks was made during Wang’s phone talks with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar on Monday (17), Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing on Tuesday (18). Zhao said, “China is ready to facilitate intra-Afghan talks and will provide necessary conditions for negotiation in China.”

The US had announced its plans to withdraw its troops completely from Afghanistan by September. The US troops’ pull-out has raised concerns in Beijing that it may lead to the regrouping of Xinjiang province’s Uygur Muslim militants in Afghanistan, which shares borders with China.

During their conversation, Wang told Atmar that China “will continue to support the Afghan government in playing a leading role in the country’s peace and reconciliation process”, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Wang also called on all parties to support and implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions to promote a smooth transition of the Afghanistan situation and avoid a resurgence of terrorist forces, it said.

In a comment that may not go down well with the Taliban, Wang, according to the report, expressed his hope that Afghanistan’s future leadership will pursue a moderate Muslim policy, promote a foreign policy of peace, maintain friendship with neighbouring countries, and firmly combat all forms of terrorism.

Wang’s talks with Atmar came a day after he held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi during which he called on the UN to play its “due role” to fill the void being left by the US troops’ withdrawal.

Wang told Qureshi that the “hasty withdrawal” of the US troops from Afghanistan has severely impacted the Afghan domestic peace process and negatively affected regional stability. Under such circumstances, China expects the UN to play its “due role”.

He, however, did not elaborate the “due role”. Wang also said the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation of which India and Pakistan are members, should pay more attention to the situation and Afghanistan’s neighbours to strengthen communication, speak in one voice and take coordinated actions.
Observers say the US plan to speed up the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan may have troubling consequences for China, especially in its volatile Xinjiang province.

China has been expressing its concern over the US move despite tensions with Washington on a host of issues, including America’s allegation of genocide against Muslim Uygurs by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. It denies the allegations of running mass detention camps and violating the human rights of Uygurs.

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