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China offers support to Taliban

Context:

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has pledged support and assistance to the Taliban in a meeting in Doha.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s recent promise of support?
  2. What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?
  3. China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan
  4. Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

About China’s recent promise of support?

  • China vowed to help the Taliban “rebuild the country” during its first high-level face-to-face talks between the Chinese Foreign Minister and the Taliban’s Acting Deputy Prime Minister, in the Qatari capital of Doha.
  • This is the first face-to-face talks between the two sides since the takeover of Afghanistan by the group.
  • During the meeting China said that Afghanistan is facing quadruple challenges, namely the humanitarian crisis, economic chaos, terrorist threats and governance difficulties, adding that overcoming these challenges requires more understanding and support from the international community
  • China expressed hope that the Taliban will further demonstrate openness and tolerance, unite all ethnic groups and factions in Afghanistan to work together for peaceful reconstruction, and effectively protect the rights and interests of women and children.
  • The top Chinese official also urged the Taliban to adopt a friendly policy toward its neighbouring countries, and build a modern country that conforms to the wishes of the people as well as the trend of the times.
  • It was also asserted that China always respects Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and supports the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and choose the development path.

What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?

  • Afghanistan is sitting on mineral deposits estimated to be worth up to $3 trillion according to a a former mines minister of Afghanistan.
  • The country is probably home to what may be the world’s largest reserves of lithium – the key ingredient of the large-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Since, China dominates Lithium-Ion Battery Production worldwide, it may seek long-term a contract with the Taliban to develop Afghanistan’s massive untapped lithium reserves in return for mining rights and ownership arrangements.
  • Afghanistan is also rich in several other resources such as gold, oil, bauxite, rare earths, chromium, copper, natural gas, uranium, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: China’s strategic Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) could get more reach if it able to extend the initiative from Pakistan to Afghanistan, with a Peshawar-to-Kabul motorway. The road, which is already being discussed, would create a much shorter land route for faster and convenient access to markets in the Middle East for Chinese goods. A new route through Kabul would also render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.

China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan

  • According to the UN security council, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) had roots in Afghanistan as it received support from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the 2000s.
  • ETIM is an Uyghur Islamic extremist organisation founded in Western China with the aim to establish an independent state called East Turkestan in the place of Xinjiang.
  • Thus, ETIM poses a direct threat to China’s national security and territorial integrity.
  • China is worried that Afghanistan could become a potential haven for the Uyghur extremist group, which could retaliate against the widespread repression of Uyghurs.

Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

  • A new route of BRI through Kabul would render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.
  • With China-Taliban engagement, there can be formation of a new regional geopolitical axis between China-Pakistan-Taliban, which may go against the interests of India.
  • China’s stronghold in Afghanistan will also hamper connectivity projects to Central Asia via Afghanistan. For example, Chabahar Port, International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), TAPI Pipeline.

-Source: The Hindu

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