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B&R initiative to aid reconstruction of Afghanistan: experts

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/27 22:58:39 Last Updated: 2017/12/28 2:02:55

B&R initiative to aid reconstruction of Afghanistan

China's use of the Belt and Road initiative to help boost the reconstruction process of Afghanistan and promote talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a sign that Beijing is more confident in investing political, diplomatic and economic assets to facilitate peace and stability in neighboring regions, experts said Wednesday.

Foreign ministers from China, Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday agreed to discuss ways to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.

Improving livelihoods in border areas may be an entry point for the extension, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign ministers' meeting was held in Beijing.

Wang also said "Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to improve bilateral relations as soon as possible and to realize harmonious co-existence, promising to resolve their concerns through comprehensive dialogue and consultation."

Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said one way of cooperation is for China to transfer some of its industries to Afghanistan. 

"Afghanistan is a close neighbor adjacent to China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Its important strategic location connects Central and South Asia and is thus critical to regional peace. Afghanistan is also rich in natural resources, which is conducive to cooperation along the CPEC," Zhao said. 

The CPEC is a network of highways, railways, pipelines and optical cables, and a flagship project under the Belt and Road initiative. The 3,000-kilometer-long corridor starts from China's western city of Kashgar and ends at Pakistan's city of Gwadar.

Analysts said China is trying to help chart a roadmap for the peace process in Afghanistan through its own experience by using the economic corridor as an impetus for development. They added that China's role in regional diplomacy is slowly shifting to a more proactive stance but the country still hesitates to involve itself in any disputes directly or militarily. 

"The past US presence in Afghanistan has proved that military means alone cannot solve the dilemma in Afghanistan. China will not make that mistake," Qian Feng, a researcher of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times. 

Qian denied that China is challenging the US' role in the region or filling the power vacuum it has left.

"Both Afghanistan and Pakistan agree to the talks because of China's neutral and objective stance. Even if the US influence is dropping in the region, it is not because of China but due to failed US foreign policy," Qian said. 

China's foreign ministry also denied the trilateral dialogue mechanism is targeting external  countries, but still warned others not to "interfere or influence it" as India looks dubiously at the CPEC, which runs through Kashmir, a disputed area between India and Pakistan.

Newspaper headline: Beijing invests for peace


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