Beijing has every interest in finding peace in Afghanistan
China is well aware that without stability in the war-wracked nation, its plans for an economic transformation in central Asia and beyond will be in doubt
Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires for good reason. Alexander the Great, Britain, the Soviet Union and most recently, the US, suffered great losses trying to subdue its tribes. China is therefore only too aware of the need to tread warily in trying to negotiate peace between the Taliban and President Ashraf Ghani’s government. Yet the strategic location of the war-wracked nation to the One Belt, One Road initiative means that every effort has to be made to help bring about a settlement.
China therefore had a key position at talks in Islamabad last Monday with officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US. The meeting was part of efforts to resume negotiations that broke down last year. China’s close ties with Pakistan make its involvement crucial; repairing strained relations between Islamabad and Kabul is vital if a reconciliation process is to succeed. Chinese spokesman Hong Lei said afterwards that the nation would “work with all parties to support and help relaunch peace talks inside Afghanistan”.
Beijing has every interest in finding peace. Afghanistan and Xinjiang (新疆) share a border, so ending the threat posed by extremists is essential to ensure stability in the troubled autonomous region. The success of the belt and road plans to economically link China with central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe also depend on security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Understandably, China has decided to take a key role and last year hosted meetings with the Taliban and Afghan representatives as part of the groundwork for talks. Peace will not come easily. The splintering of the Taliban into factions, some of which do not support negotiations, complicates the process. There will be more preparatory meetings in coming weeks and China and its partners will need patience, resolve and determination. But with Afghanistan at the heart of Asia, backs cannot be turned on the process; Beijing is well aware that without stability, its plans for the transformation of central Asia and beyond will be in doubt.