Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

Geopolitical Friendship of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan

Published Date: February 14, 2015

In the trilateral meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, which was held on 9th February 2015, there is an optimism felt about the increase of influential role of China in Afghanistan. Most of analysts believe that in addition to other reasons, China has influence over Pakistan, and it can play a positive role in the case of Afghanistan.

Immediately after the meeting of the diplomats of the three countries, on Thursday February 12th 2015 the Foreign Minister of China Wing Lee and a Chinese official delegation went to the capital of Pakistan Islamabad, and in a bilateral meeting they met about the regional issues.

China has friendly relations with all regional countries, and it is seen as a country that is looking for security in the region; therefore, it increased its rule in the important regional issues.

 

Background:

Afghanistan and China has historical relations and the history of the relations is even related to BC. It is said that the first Chinese ambassador that China sent to Afghanistan was during Kushan era, and the two countries has cultural and economic influence on each other. Buddhism in China was transferred through Afghanistan, Afghanistan was economically connected to China through Chinese Silk Road, which empowered Afghanistan economically, and it was the centre of transit and commerce of three continents.

On the other hand, in the history, most of the area of Pakistan, in some cases some of the area of Pakistan was related to the territory of Afghanistan. Finally, in 19th century most of the territory of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, which were part of Afghanistan and due to Gandumak Pact and Durand Line, these lands were given to British India.

After the independence of Pakistan, those areas were questionable to be part of Pakistan; therefore, Afghanistan was the only country that has given non-confidence vote against the admission of Pakistan at the UN. Though Kabul took its negative vote back, and sent its ambassador to Pakistan, but since this day, Pak-Afghan relations were passed through complex periods. In this period, with the establishment of new government in Afghanistan and the attempts for the empowerment of relations with China, there were also steps taken to improve Pak-Afghan relations too.

 

Pak-Afghan Relations and the Latest Changes:

In the last six decades, Pak-Afghan relations faced many challenges, in a very few occasions they had came closer to each other. The main reason behind this was the conflict in the foreign affairs of both countries; from Afghan Perspective, it was the issue of Pashtonistan, and from Pakistan’s side it was the philosophy of Strategic Depth, which was hindrance in the path of Pak-Afghan relations.

As in his last visit to Pakistan, Ashraf Ghani has given some privileges to Pakistan[1], and then a military school was attacked in Peshawar, by closed door meetings and trips of some Pakistan officials to Afghanistan, it seems that Pakistan also changed its policies towards Afghanistan. However, with the relations improving between Pakistan and Afghanistan, concern in Afghanistan had once again raised that Afghanistan might become a victim of trusting Pakistan.

There are some analyses that Afghanistan did not get any privileges from Pakistan, but Pakistan gets the below privileges by the name of cooperation in the peace process;

  • Delaying the contract of Afghanistan purchasing weapons from India;
  • Sending six Afghan Army officials to Pakistan for getting military trainings.
  • Submitting Lutfullah Mehsud to Pakistan;
  • Decreasing tax for Pakistani goods, but yet Afghan tradespersons face challenges in transit;
  • Forcing Afghan migrants to exit from Pakistan, which is against the Pakistani and UN agreement;

 With all these issues there are still hopes that changes may appear in the policies of Pakistan. These hopes are based not only the involvement of Chinese relations with both the countries, but also some other aspects; but security and peace in Afghanistan has positive impacts on the economy of Pakistan; because a big project[2], n which is Pakistan-China energy zone, will also pass from the regions that are close to Afghan border, or they have to pass it from the areas where there is no security in those areas, like Tribal areas, Gilgit and Baltistan.

 

Strategic Relations of China and Pakistan:

While in 1962, India was in conflict with China based on (Aksichen) area, so the incident increased the value of Pakistan to China. Since that time, China entered with Pakistan in an undeclared security agreement. Because of the strategy of the U.S., through which it want to support India to stop the improvement of China and struggle against keeping the balance of China in the region, the China and Pakistan relations get more tied to each other.

 

Sino-Afghan Relations:

In the last six decades, Afghanistan had relations with the People’s Republic of China; these relations were so tied up to 1978; but because of international evolutions China was not paying that, much attention to Afghanistan compared to its other neighbouring countries.

China had good relations with Afghanistan in (1955-1978) compared to (1978-2001). In the period of (1955-1978), China was going to decrease the role of her two enemies, India and Russia, in Afghanistan, while earlier China had friendly relations with those two countries, but later on started rivalry with those two countries[3]. However, in the second period of time (1978-2001) because of Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Afghan civil war, China did not have relations with Afghanistan.

In the second presidential era of Karzai, the relationship of Kabul got closer to Beijing; these closing relations appeared in the forms of taking the contract of Amu-zone, Ainak Copper contract and became the most investing foreign country [4] in Afghanistan.

While Xi Jinping gained power in China, there were changes visible in the foreign policy of China. Jinping increased its attention towards the West and he started working on the new Chinese Silk Road, and built economic zones with India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As security and stability in Afghanistan is necessity for the mentioned projects of China, therefore after 46 years in 2012 China sent the member of Chinese Communist Party (Politburo) on a trip to Kabul.

Currently Ashraf Ghani wants to bring China closer and economically in to Afghanistan, and on the other hand, considering its influences over Pakistan, it plays an important role in the peace process of Afghanistan.

Chinese Foreign Policy Regarding Afghanistan:

In 2012, China started the series of meetings between Afghanistan-Pakistan-China think tanks from Beijing, while the second conference was held in Islamabad in 2014, and in the future, the third one will be held in Kabul.

Overall, in its foreign policy, China increased its attention towards Afghanistan, and it has done the following activities up to date:

First: China had relations with the Taliban, even during their Emirate; it is said that in last one year, China met the Taliban delegation twice, regarding that the Taliban mentioned in their newsletter that the aim of the trip was to inform China about their plans; but the details of the meetings are not clarified.

Second: China has friendly relations with Afghan Government and it is the country that has done more investment in Afghanistan compared to any other country. In the last trilateral conference, China promised to construct a dam and an electricity factory in the insecure province, Kunar, which is on the border with Pakistan, and want Afghanistan and Pakistan to be connected by railway track. So one of the advantages of it would be that Afghanistan will be also part of Pakistan-China energy corridor, and commerce between the countries will increase.

Third: in last few months, China had secret meetings with the U.S. and Afghan officials about the challenges of Afghanistan, which shows that China really want to play an important role in the Central Asia, especially in Afghanistan.

These secret meetings and negotiations with the Taliban take place in such a condition that there are concerns about the rise of Islamic State in the region, and some Chinese citizens are killed by this group.

As China will rise as the super power of the world in the future, so it is afraid of other powers, especially the U.S. In addition to its foreign concern, China is also concerned about its internal issue, which is Xinjiang, and its concern is about that its competitors will take advantage of the issue.

In addition, the crisis in Badakhshan, the Al Qaida’s declaration of war against China, the Pakistan-China energy corridor, and the new Chinese Silk Road are other reasons that has given optimism to China about Kabul, so China may play an important role in the economic empowerment, negotiation with the Taliban, and Afghan-Pak relationships.

The End

[1]  Ashraf Ghani has given some privileges to Pakistan like: training Afghan army by Pakistan; cancelation of contract of purchasing heavy weapons from India.

[2] It is said that 45 billion dollar may be invested on the Pakistan-China energy zone.

[3]  At the beginning of 1950 decade China had friendly relations with Russia and India; but its relations with Russia destroyed since 1960 and in 1969 they had a small conflict with each other because of border issues, its relations with India destroyed since 1959, it is because of Chinese operations in Tibet, and in 1962 both the countries entered a fight because of Oxygen Area.

[4] Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

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