China hosts Taliban delegation, calls group ‘pivotal military and political force’, flags its own terrorism concerns

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a high-level delegation of Taliban leaders in a strategically significant interaction, as the group took control of a large swathe of territory in Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of foreign forces, raising fear of a military takeover of the Afghan government

Jul 29, 2021
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China hosts Taliban delegation

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a high-level delegation of Taliban leaders in a strategically significant interaction, as the group took control of a large swathe of territory in Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of foreign forces, raising fear of a military takeover of the Afghan government. China also hoped that the insurgent group wouldn’t allow ETIM militants to operate in the country. 

The meeting raised the international standing of the group as this is the first time that China’s Foreign Minister met Mullah Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the insurgents. Importantly, the meeting came almost two weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping held a telephonic conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, raising the prospect of Beijing as a mediator in the conflict. 

The nine-member delegation is in China’s northern city of Tianjin for a two-day meeting. “The Taliban are a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan and are expected to play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction,” Wang was quoted as saying in a statement said in the meeting in a statement released by China's foreign ministry.

He also said that China hoped the Taliban would “deal resolutely” with the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group China claims is leading a push for independence in Xinjiang, but which many experts doubt even exists in any operational form. China termed the ETIM a “direct threat” to its national security. 

Mohammed Naeem, the Taliban spokesperson of the Doha political office, assured that the group would not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China.  

Recently, media reports showed that militants from the Chinese’s restive Xinjing province, which shares a small border with Afghanistan, were operating in the Badakshan province of Afghanistan. Almost all districts in Badakshan, except the provincial centers, came under the control of the Taliban.

Wang Yi further added that China hoped that the group will put the nation’s and the people’s interests first and focus on peace talks, set peace goals, establish a “positive image” and work for unity among all factions and ethnic groups.

Calling the hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as proof of failed US policies, He said Beijing respected Afghan sovereignty and believed in the non-interference in the country’s internal matter.  Now, he said, the responsibility of stabilizing and developing the country lies on the Afghans themselves. 

Last week, when asked about the issue of Muslim persecution in China's Xinjiang province, the Taliban, who calls itself as a champion of fundamental Islam, termed it the "internal matter" of Beijing. 

Talks came at a time when China was increasingly looking to increase its profile both politically and economically in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces. China, which is always looking for commercial dividends, has signed several deals for oil, gas, and copper mining in Afghanistan. However, the continued instability made the investment impossible for projects. 

Significantly, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar also held discussions on Afghanistan. Despite opening intelligence level contacts with the Taliban, New Delhi is putting its weight behind the Ghani government. 

India is also concerned over the presence of anti-Indian groups likes Lashkar -e-Tayeba and Hizbul Mujahidden’s cadre in Afghanistan, who are fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban. (SAM)

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