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China’s efforts to expand ‘Belt and Road’ into Afghanistan

China is planning to have Afghanistan join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as the withdrawal of NATO forces from the country will clear the way for Beijing to return to one of the ancient nations of the world. Silk Road.

China’s One Belt One Road Strategy Map. (Image source: Xinhua Finance Agency, 2015).

Speaking at a tripartite meeting earlier this week between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi clearly emphasized Beijing’s signature economic plan, telling his counterparts that “The three countries should deepen cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative.”

Western officials see the initiative as a predatory economic plan, but the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan could enhance China’s influence in the country, despite the violence. between the Taliban and the (US-backed) Afghan government, as well as with other terrorist groups, could lead to other upheavals.

“China is interested in expanding the BRI, because it believes that it has enough natural resources to exploit and bring back to China, but now [many countries] are cautious due to instability and insecurity. [of this partnership],” an Indo-Pacific official told the Washington Examiner.

“This cooperation may suit both Pakistan and China, but there are also potential risks, because the Chinese initiative is being fiercely criticized globally as a model of debt diplomacy. So if they repeat the same expansion of cooperation in Afghanistan, they will be criticized even more. And Afghanistan – an already poor country – will sink further into debt,” the official added.

Afghanistan has a wealth of natural resources, including a mine of rare earth metals needed for high-tech manufacturing. Chinese officials have even signaled that they want to prevent the US from accessing the mine, in an attempt to prevent the US from building the F-35 fighter jet.

Zack Cooper of the American Enterprise Institute commented on this: “The first thing I thought was ‘good luck. I think the Chinese are pouring a lot of money into some countries that will probably [give] a relatively low return on investment.”

Pakistan is believed to have undermined US efforts to defeat the Taliban and establish a stable government. However, the US withdrawal also means that countries in the region lose protection through US counterterrorism operations.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in an interview on Friday (June 4): “There is a lot of fear in Pakistan right now. Since the US announced when they will be leaving Afghanistan… the Taliban feel they have won the war.”

The US is expected to withdraw its remaining 2,500-3,500 troops from Afghanistan in September after two decades of deployment. As soon as the US troops withdraw, China and Pakistan plan to “welcome the Taliban back into the political mainstream”, according to a report released by the Chinese diplomatic mission. Such a political arrangement could allow China to establish an economic position in the country.

We can expand China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation to Afghanistan and improve the level of trade cooperation and connectivity between Afghanistan and countries in the region, Wang Yi told SCMP. area.”

CPEC, launched in 2013, includes a network of roads, ports, oil and gas pipelines, and fiber optic cables, as a Belt and Road project to strengthen trade and infrastructure links across the country. Asia and beyond. It is strategically important to China as it provides an alternative route to oil and gas imports from the Middle East. The project has been accused of being a debt trap for Pakistan.

The Chinese government has ambitions to operate a railway line from China to Pakistani ports on the Arabian Sea. That route would allow China to import oil from the Middle East without having to ship it by sea to Eastern China. That sea route passes through the Strait of Malacca, a narrow shipping lane between Indonesia and Singapore that China fears could be closed by the United States in a conflict.

Observers say Pakistani officials worry that the US-backed government in Kabul will align closely with India – both a traditional rival of Pakistan and a key player in the US effort. United States to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. And so, China’s cooperation with Afghanistan could contribute to deepening the deepening divisions between New Delhi and Beijing.

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