- China flagged the possible inclusion of Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — a move that is likely to irk India.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi mooted a possible opening of the doors for Kabul’s entry in the backdrop of the first Foreign Ministers’ trilateral dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- India has opposed CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), on the grounds that it infringes on its sovereignty.
- Speaking to the media in Beijing Mr. Wang advocated that Afghanistan could join connectivity initiatives, in view of the urgency of improving its people’s lives.
- China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend CPEC to Afghanistan.
- China has called CPEC a “flagship project” of its Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at building connectivity along the Eurasian corridor.
- A joint statement released at the end of the one-day conference said that the three countries reaffirmed their commitment to “advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative”.
- Afghanistan has strong enthusiasm towards corridor construction.
- “They really hope that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can be Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Economic Corridor.”
- Analysts say that the proposal providing the landlocked Afghanistan an access to the port of Gwadar — the starting point of CPEC— may be intended to balance, if not undermine, the India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement, which gives Kabul access to the Iranian port of Chabahar.
- “Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed that they are building up a new mechanism of crisis management, including information sharing and intelligence cooperation.
- Referring to the trilateral proposal “The significance is that with this kind of mechanism, China will do its best to stabilise the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
A test case?
- Observers point out that China’s de facto mediation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is being domestically seen as a test case for similar efforts in other global hotspots.
- It follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the 19th Party Congress where he proposed that China would work towards establishing a global “community of shared destiny”.
- The joint statement listed establishing “political mutual trust and reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and counterterrorism as three topics of the trilateral cooperation”.
- The three Foreign Ministers agreed to “communicate and consult” on defining a Memorandum of Understanding on counterterrorism.