China-led AIIB ushers in Afghanistan as China seeks to expand its influence
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has formally granted Afghanistan full membership, taking the lender’s membership to 80.
The Afghan finance ministry said on Saturday it received a certificate of membership from the Beijing-based multilateral bank on the sidelines of a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.
The AIIB, an institution created under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration to boost China’s global influence, approved Afghanistan’s membership in March.
With a registered capital of US$100 billion, the bank is expected to have about 90 members by the end of this year.
It aims to give financial support to infrastructure projects in Asia and is widely seen as China’s answer to the US-led World Bank and Japan-led Asian Development Bank.
Also in Washington, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi spoke to AIIB president Jin Liqun about support for solar energy and railway links between Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Iran and China, the Afghan ministry said.
“[The deal] paves the way for the implementation of major national projects,” the ministry said.
The deal comes as Afghanistan continues to be riven by conflict, almost 16 years after the Taliban regime was toppled. In August US President Donald Trump said the United States would send more soldiers to the country.
China has sought to expand its influence in the Afghanistan through economic and diplomatic channels.
Beijing has been quietly brokering talks between Kabul and the Taliban forces, and has made a few preliminary investments in the country.
But Chinese investors have hit some brick walls. State-owned China Metallurgical Group grabbed headlines in 2008 when it won the rights to develop the Mes Aynak copper mine, but the project has been repeatedly delayed and the mine is not fully operational.
According to data from China’s Ministry of Commerce, China’s outstanding investments in Afghanistan were only US$425 million as the end of July.