November 17, 2014

Conversation: Examining China's Presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan

An excerpt from, "United States praises China's growing role in Afghanistan" Reuters, October 30, 2014:
The United States welcomed China's growing role in trying to ensure Afghanistan's stability on Thursday, saying a Beijing conference of foreign ministers on Afghan reconstruction this week shows its commitment to the region as Western troops pull out.

The comments, made by a senior State Department official, are rare U.S. praise for Beijing, which this week hosts Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first visit abroad since assuming office in September.

"China's view of engaging in Afghanistan over the course of these past few years has really changed significantly, and in our view, in a very positive direction," the official told reporters during a telephone briefing.

On Friday, foreign ministers from Asian and Central Asian countries will gather in Beijing for a fourth round "Istanbul Process" conference on Afghanistan, which China hopes will help boost development and security there. White House counsellor John Podesta will attend the meeting.

"It's a real demonstration of China's commitment to Afghanistan, to its role in the region and one that we greatly welcome," the official said.
An excerpt from, "China emerges as a key player in Afghanistan" by Tom Hussain, The National, November 17, 2014:
That is why China’s recent offer to facilitate a dialogue seeking peace and political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban ought not to be thought of as a diplomatic punt, or dismissed out of hand as such. China is not a country that tends to thrust itself into complicated diplomatic situations as an arbiter. It would not have become involved unless the key players had asked it to, and assured it that they would act in good faith.

The origin of the idea is a mystery, but Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, set the diplomatic ball rolling in September by asking Saudi Arabia and then China to facilitate a reconciliation with Pakistan.

He acted intelligently by engaging couriers who are close allies of Pakistan. That sparked a parade of Pakistani officials to and from Kabul, with the powerful Pakistan military assuming the lead role in the bilateral re-engagement – a necessary demonstration of political will. As the international lead actor in Afghanistan, the US, too, has signalled its approval through secretary of state John Kerry.

The intense diplomatic activity culminated in Mr Ghani’s state visit to Islamabad on Friday and Saturday, and an agreement to work together to resolve their bilateral disputes and prevent an implosion in Afghanistan by politically engaging the Taliban.

That’s where China comes in. Its ambitions in Afghanistan are limited, clearly stated and rooted in its desire for stability on its western borders. As such, China has never been part of the problem, and is seen as neutral.
Video Title: Conversation: Examining China's Presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Source: STRATFORvideo. Date Published: November 17, 2014. Description:
Stratfor Analysts Rodger Baker and Kamran Bokhari discuss the foreign policy challenges that lay ahead for China in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the US winds down its engagement in the region.