Afghanistan-China’s Developing Relations
As the US is withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, China is increasingly boosting its presence in the country through development of diplomatic relations and large-scale industrial and construction projects. According to the reports, China announced it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan. The role of the special envoy will be ensuring China’s friendly relations with Afghanistan and ensuring the country’s role in stabilization of the country.
The United States, a superpower who dominated Afghanistan in over a decade, is exhausted by the long-lasting war and is set to withdraw its combat forces, if not completely. Inevitably, the financial assistance of the US-led alliance in Afghanistan is going to decline as a result of the withdrawal. The fact is that the war-exhausted US is not only withdrawing from Afghanistan but from the world, as the Obama administration is increasingly focusing on no-interference foreign policy. Two costly wars in two far remote Islamic countries heavily inflicted US post-crisis fragile economy.
In contrast, as the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan, China is expanding its presence in the country, particularly in its crude market and mining industry. Afghanistan’s stability is important for Beijing. China has its own Muslim population in the once troublesome Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It is said that the Uyghurs and Pakistani militants have had ties in past decades and Pakistan’s tribal region is the hotbed of militancy in the world which supports Chinese Uyghur separatists. Therefore, China sees the militant groups in Northwestern Pakistan as a threat to its own security.
China’s future role is seen as highly important in the international efforts to stabilize the country and develop its fragile economy. China has invested extensively in development projects and mining sector and is expanding its presence in the Afghan market. Rather than economic relations with Afghanistan, China also plays a remarkable role in promoting regional cooperation in supporting the Afghan government. Some months ago, President Hamid Karzai said that “China as a neighbor, a major world power and a friend of Afghanistan could play a very important role in facilitating and promoting the peace process in Afghanistan.”
China has always sought to work with Pakistan to fight militancy and the safe havens of the militant groups in Waziristan. Afghanistan would remain vulnerable to the insurgency in the country fought by militant groups coming from Northwestern Pakistan. The extremist groups in Pakistan pose a shared threat to Afghanistan and China and both countries to work together along with Pakistan to cope the menace of terrorism and regional security challenges.
On the other hand, China has large investments in Afghanistan. Chinese companies are the frontrunner investors in Afghanistan’s mining sector and other construction projects crucial for reconstruction of the war-torn country. Afghanistan is a major market for Chinese products. All these highlights soft contribution of China in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and to the future of the country. Afghanistan needs to develop strategic ties with China as it is doing with other regional and western countries. Developing a friendly relation with Beijing does not mean bypassing the US, but it will build mutual relations with both China and the US, the superpowers of the world.