Friday, June 14, 2024
Friday, June 14, 2024
Home » Extension of China-Pakistan Corridor to Afghanistan Presents Challenges 

Extension of China-Pakistan Corridor to Afghanistan Presents Challenges 

by Dmitry Lobzhanidze
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The Taliban may have achieved a diplomatic win in an agreement to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, analysts said, but implementation of the project still faces challenges.

“The three sides reaffirmed their resolve to fully harness Afghanistan’s potential as a hub for regional connectivity,” said a joint statement released in May following a meeting of officials representing the three countries in Islamabad. The countries restated their commitment “to further the trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, and to jointly extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.”

“I think it’s a big diplomatic success for the Taliban. It further legitimizes the regime,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization.

But she added, “I don’t expect any significant new projects. … I think there are serious obstacles” in terms of regional connectivity.

The $62 billion CPEC connectivity project is a flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The initiative is a series of infrastructure projects and investments that span the globe with the aim of connecting China to foreign trade.

Felbab-Brown said the decision to extend CPEC to Afghanistan “has really much more to do with China’s global posturing and trying to separate itself from the United States.”

She said China continues its narrative “that the West is to blame for the humanitarian crisis [and] that the West should not be holding [the] money of the central bank of Afghanistan.”

Since the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO forces and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, China has been vocal in criticizing the U.S. for freezing Afghanistan’s assets.

“[B]y seizing Afghanistan’s overseas assets and imposing unilateral sanctions, the U.S., which created the Afghan issue in the first place, is the biggest external factor that hinders substantive improvement in the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in April.

Chinese investment

The ministry’s position paper on Afghanistan stated that China would “do its best” to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.

In recent months, Chinese companies have shown interest in investing in Afghanistan.

Last week, in a meeting with Taliban officials in Kabul, officials of Fan China Afghan Mining Processing and Trading Co. announced an investment of $350 million in various sectors ranging from construction to health to energy in Afghanistan, according to the Bakhtar News Agency, Afghanistan’s state news agency. The company is a joint venture between China’s Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co. (CAPEIC) and Afghanistan’s Watan Group.

In January, the Taliban signed a contract with CAPEIC to extract oil in the north of the country by investing $150 million annually.

China has also shown interest in the development and operation of mines in Afghanistan. A Chinese company, Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), signed a contract with the then-Afghan government in 2008 to extract copper from Mes Aynak in Logar province.

But that work has not started yet. Last month, the Taliban’s mining and petroleum minister, Shahabuddin Delawar, urged MCC to begin “practical” work on the development and operation of the mine.

Security concerns

“I do think that China continues to have very substantial security interests and frustrations in Afghanistan, and the security agenda is still the dominant one,” Felbab-Brown said.

A U.N. report, published last month, said the Taliban still has ties with al-Qaida and other groups, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party.

China considers ETIM, which was founded in Pakistan by a Uyghur religious figure, Hasan Mahsum, in 1997, as a threat to its security. However, the U.S. removed the ETIM from its terror list in 2020.

Hamidullah Farooqi, a former Afghan minister of transport and civil aviation, told VOA that the Taliban tried to reassure China and Pakistan that “they can address their security concerns, and no terrorist groups will be allowed to use Afghan soil.”

“I do not think that Chinese and Pakistani officials are convinced,” said Farooqi, adding that the Taliban have to act on their counterterrorism commitment.

Farooqi said that the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan was “considered years before the Taliban’s takeover,” but, because of security concerns, it was not implemented.

He said that because of a “lack of security in the country and the activities of TTP [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan] and other terrorist organizations in the region, the project was not implemented.”


“Though the security situation improved under the Taliban, Afghanistan does not have political stability, and that is the reason for no foreign investments in the country,” Farooqi said.

He added that the Taliban have to make “fundamental changes in their policies.”

“They [the Taliban] have to respect human rights, women’s rights and form an inclusive government. These are the things that would bring stability to Afghanistan,” he said.

“Though the Taliban claim that they have brought stability in Afghanistan, I think it will take some time to have full control of Afghanistan,” Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, a political economist in Islamabad, told VOA.


He said geopolitics presents another challenge for Afghanistan in getting investments and deals.

“There is a competition going on among the major powers and some big players in the region,” said Ramay, adding that rivalry between powers can “create some hurdles in the implementation of this policy to include Afghanistan in CPEC.”

Citing an example, Azarakhsh Hafizi, former head of the international relations committee at Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told VOA that China is interested in investing in Afghan natural resources, but the Taliban are not recognized by any country as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

“This will make it difficult for any country to deal with the Taliban,” Hafizi said.

Source : VOA

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