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Kabul’s Tripartite Meeting and Recent Developments in Afghanistan Peace Process

Ehsan Sadeqi-Chimeh
Jan 2019

The second tripartite meeting among China, Pakistan and Afghanistan was held on December 15, 2018 in the Afghan capital city of Kabul. Before that, the first meeting among the three countries had been held in the Chinese capital city of Beijing in December 2017. The trip to Afghanistan by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his participation in the aforementioned tripartite meeting is important in that the meeting coincided with a new round of peace talks among the United States, the Taliban group and the government of Afghanistan. The ongoing efforts by China are in line with the efforts made by other parties involved in the peace process in Afghanistan. This issue indicates the importance of this country and the significance of restoring stability to it both for local and regional actors and for big powers such as China.
Review of the joint statement by China, Pakistan and Afghanistan at the end of the Kabul meeting
The second trilateral meeting among China, Pakistan and Afghanistan was attended by foreign ministers of all three countries. They included China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani., and their Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
At the end of their meeting, the foreign ministers of three participating countries issued a joint statement the highlights of which are as follows:
-Emphasis on the need to bolster and deepen collaboration among China, Pakistan and Afghanistan with special stress on promoting projects aimed at strengthening various forms of communication among regional countries. Those projects include the “One Belt, One Road” initiative by China, holding the regional economic cooperation conference in Afghanistan, and other regional economic initiatives.
-Emphasis on promoting cooperation against terrorism and bolstering coordination mechanisms among the three countries in the fight against extremism. The participants also underlined the need to build mutual political confidence among all sides, support the reconciliation process, and boost developmental cooperation, regional communications and security collaboration.
-Supporting Afghanistan’s peace process at regional and international levels: The participants lauded the role played by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani to facilitate peace talks in the country. They also invited the Taliban to get back to the negotiating table and join the peace process in Afghanistan.
-Emphasis on continued software and hardware cooperation at regional level: This issue includes various items from exchange of experience and personnel training in software areas to China’s commitment and effort to create regional links between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the fields of energy and communication infrastructure. This includes construction of highways between the cities of Quetta and Kandahar as well as construction of a road from Pakistan’s Peshawar to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
The three countries also agreed to hold their third tripartite meeting in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad in 2019.
China’s effort to resolve differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan
Concurrent with the Kabul meeting, there was a flurry of diplomatic efforts among the United States, the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban group to convince that group to get back to the negotiating table. Therefore, the visit to Kabul by China’s foreign minister and his participation in the Kabul meeting along with foreign minister’s from Pakistan and Afghanistan could be the sign of an effort by Beijing to get Kabul and Islamabad closer together and also to settle differences between the two countries.
After the trilateral meeting in Kabul, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country sought close cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the field of security. He added that China was also trying to get Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their relations. Wang then pointed to China’s support for efforts launched by Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote peace in the region, asking the Taliban to go back to the negotiating table with the central government in Afghanistan.
It must be noted that by establishing close relations with the government of Pakistan, China is pursuing two major goals:
-To mount pressure on Pakistan to establish closer relations with Afghanistan: In this context, China is trying to get these two countries closer together in order to expand its regional communication projects, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, into Afghanistan. The participants in the trilateral Kabul meeting have reached agreements on this issue.
-To mount pressure on Pakistan in view of Islamabad’s close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and other related groups and networks: In doing this, China is trying to convince those groups to restart negotiations with the central government in Afghanistan and enter mainstream politics in the country. China’s involvement in the political sphere of Afghanistan, especially through economic investment, has started since a long time ago, because stability in this country can greatly reduce China’s security costs.
Apart from trade and economic interests that China is pursuing through regional communication initiatives, restoration of stability to Afghanistan followed by stability in relations between Kabul and Islamabad can reduce China’s security concerns in this region. The problem with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is considered as a terrorist organization by China and is active in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a major security concern for China.
Conclusion
In general, the trilateral meeting in Kabul shows that China, both as a big power and as a country located in a turbulent and unstable environment as a result of extremism and terrorism, is trying to prove its diplomatic resolve to settle regional disputes, especially in Afghanistan. In doing this, it is also trying to pave the way for itself to make more trade and economic investment in this country. At the same time, establishing security relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and improvement of these relations, will be effective in containing threats against China’s national security.