Taliban roll out red carpet for Belt and Road initiative

The new Taliban administration has expressed willingness to join China’s Belt and Road initiative, but Beijing is expected to be cautious.

Earlier this week, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the new government in Afghanistan wanted to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $50 billion project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). of Beijing.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on September 8 also hosted an online meeting with his counterparts in China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Afghanistan’s neighbors, to discuss the nation’s future. this.

“The situation in Afghanistan remains complicated and volatile. We hope that the political situation will soon stabilize and lead to a normal state. The new reality requires us to discard old perspectives, develop and develop. new insights and take a pragmatic, rational approach,” Qureshi wrote on Twitter afterward.

At the meeting, China pledged $31 million in emergency aid to Afghanistan, including grain, winter supplies, vaccines and medicine. “What China can do now is maintain necessary contacts with the Taliban in normal economic activities and people-to-people exchanges,” said the Global Times of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece. Chinese products, said.

Taliban officials (left) during a meeting with senior Chinese diplomats in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 6.  Photo: Reuters.

Taliban officials (left) during a meeting with senior Chinese diplomats in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 6. Photo: Reuters.

According to an unnamed source close to the Taliban, China has been promising them potential projects in Afghanistan since 2018. “There were verbal agreements on investment between Beijing and the Taliban. As soon as the authorities came, of the globally recognized Taliban, China will begin carrying out infrastructure projects in the war-torn country,” the source said.

Andrew Small, senior Asia expert at Germany’s Marshall Fund, also said the Taliban’s immediate investment offers give Beijing leverage. However, he commented Although China will quickly provide some economic assistance, further cooperation is likely to proceed with caution.

“Beijing will be more than happy to make promises, or join discussions on the prospect of expanding the BRI and CPEC. However, it will not do anything in practice until it has enough confidence. believe in political and security conditions,” Small said.

Experts also point out that the Taliban do not have many options for investors. “China is expected to be ready to help the Taliban government, after the US withdraws from a very important area for China,” said Hasaan Khawar, a public policy analyst in Pakistan.

China seems to know about the abundant mineral resources in Afghanistan, including the Mes Aynak copper mine, which is said to be the world’s second largest in terms of reserves. China Metallurgical Corporation signed a $3 billion exploration lease for the mine in 2008, but work has been delayed for more than a decade due to security concerns.

The fallout of the Mes Aynak exploration project is a useful reminder to China of how easily big investments can fail amid uncertainty, according to observers.

“Copper is essential to wires, electronics, motors and many other products made in China, but they’re not going to be in a hurry to put themselves at risk,” said Jeremy Garlick, professor of engineering and research. international relations at the Czech University of Economics, Prague. “I think China will carefully consider any decision to intervene further in Afghanistan.”

The risk of fighting, and the possibility of Afghanistan being used as a launching pad for global terrorism, is the biggest concern for the international community, including China. Experts believe that if the Taliban don’t get the issue under control, China won’t be able to invest, like it or not.

According to Small, China does not want Afghanistan under the Taliban to become a hub of connectivity in the region if the insurgents can easily operate in the country.

“Beijing was already concerned about the deteriorating security conditions for CPEC. Now it is raising big questions about the ability of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, to be encouraged and supported. support after the victory of the Taliban,” Small said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials welcomed the Taliban’s desire to join CPEC. At a press conference on September 7, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the progress of Pakistan and Afghanistan are linked.

However, some experts consider Pakistan to be cautious about allowing CPEC to be extended to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is inherently troubled by internal stability and terrorism. If CPEC is extended to Afghanistan, the risks will increase,” warns Garlick, author of a book on the BRI.

Luster (Follow Nikkei)

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