School of International Studies,
JNU, New Delhi
The academic debate of strategic issues between Afghanistan and China has Xinjiang issue in its core. Xinjiang has been facing the problem of separatism for a long time. Afghanistan also has been the victim of instability and insecurity and related issues for many decades. There is a close connection between the fate of Xinjiang and Afghanistan’s internal stability. To understand the dynamics of strategic issues of Afghanistan and China, the Xinjiang issue and the problem of terrorism and instability in Afghanistan have been discussed in a nutshell.
Xinjiang Issue: An Overview
China has been divided in 23 provinces for administrative purposes. Of all these provinces, Xinjiang is the largest one with an area of 1.6649 million sq. km, occupying one sixth of total area of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Xinjiang, officially known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), is situated on the north-western part of China and is surrounded by eight countries namely Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India.
The People’s Republic of China was declared a multinational state in 1949. There are 56 ethnic groups in China. The majority of the Chinese population belongs to the Han ethnicity, other remaining 55 ethnic groups are considered as the national minorities. Xinjiang has total 47 ethnic groups, mainly the Uyghur, Han, Kazakh, Hui, Mongolian, Kyrgyz, Xibe, Ozbek, Manchu, Daur, Tatar and Russian. Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is one of the five autonomous region of PRC others being Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (White Papers of the Government of China 2003).
The Uyghurs of Turkic origin are the largest ethnic group of Xinjiang and follow the Sunni form of Islam. The Uyghurs of Xinjiang are demanding a separate state called Uyghuristan or Eastern Turkistan. The prominent separatist organisation fighting for this cause is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). It was founded reportedly by Hasan Mahsum, a Uyghur from Kashgar region of Xinjiang. Its aim is to establish a Uyghur state called East Turkestan that would include the parts of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (Reed and Raschke 2010).
There is not unanimity among Uyghurs about future agenda. On the one hand, some Uyghurs demand for a separate state, on the other hand, others are in favour of maintaining cultural distinction having autonomy within the Peoples’ Republic of China. Some Uyghurs are even in favour of integration into China. China is afraid of the possibility that the problem of separatism may bring instability in its other regions like Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan (Clarke 2011). The problem of Xinjiang is deep-rooted in history. There are many inter-related reasons for the emergence of this problem, those can be found in ethnicity, religion, economic backwardness, lack of employment, social inequality and political complications. The separatism in Xinjiang region is a result of many interrelated phenomena. China is promoting the immigration of Han Chinese in Xinjiang region, which is having a major influence on the demographic structure of Xinjiang. The Uighurs view this as an attempt by the Chinese government to make the Uyghurs a minority in their own region. The Uyghurs claim that the Western Development Programme is benefitting the Han Chinese and not the Uyghurs. The poor and uneducated Uyghurs are not able to compete with the Han Chinese, who are comparatively well-off and educated. The Uyghurs are also discriminated culturally. All these factors have aggravated Uyghurs’ anger and frustration towards the Chinese government.
The situation in Xinjiang aggravated during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution period. The ‘local nationalism’ was not tolerated among ethnic minorities and the institution of religion was targeted due to ideological contradictions. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), communist culture was imposed upon all the sections of society. Different expressions of the culture of the ethnic minorities, like religion, languages, literature were suppressed throughout China. Islam and its followers including the Uyghurs were targeted, mosques were destroyed, religious texts were burnt and religious leaders were persecuted. The period after Cultural Revolution witnessed the loosening of restrictions on religion and different ethnic minorities. In a relative open environment than compared to the days of the Cultural Revolution, ethnic minorities including the Uyghurs of Xinjiang began to express their dissatisfaction and anger towards the discriminatory policies in the field of politics, religion and culture. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, many Central Asian countries came into existence. China saw the possibility of sympathy and connection among Uyghurs and their Central Asian Turkic Muslim inhabitants. China viewed this possibility as a danger for its unity and integrity. So, China launched the policy of ‘strike hard’ in 1996 and began to suppress Uyghurs and different forms of separatism.
China not only emphasized on military crackdown, but also tried to solve this problem by bringing prosperity in Xinjiang region, believing that economic development will weaken the Uyghur’s movement for separate state. China launched the ‘Western Development Programme’ to bring economic development of Xinjiang, these efforts have also brought some changes in the economic condition of this region, but this region is still behind the eastern coastal part of China. Uyghurs are also of the opinion that these efforts have only benefitted to the Han Chinese and the local Uyghurs are discriminated against Han. This resulted in simmering discontent among the Uyghurs, who took recourse to violent separatist activities in the 1980s and indulged in terrorist attacks against the Chinese throughout the 1990s. Earlier the Uyghurs’ separatist movement had nothing to do with the religion, but in more recent years, separatism and Islamic extremism are coming closer to each other in Xinjiang. The linkages among Uyghur separatists and the Islamic terrorists of the wider world, including those of Afghanistan, are a matter of concern for China. Further, the greater linkages between Xinjiang and the Central Asian countries through rail, roads and pipelines, that China is promoting for developing this region, is also exposing the Uyghurs to the Islamic extremism (Clarke 2015).
Since 9/11 attacks, China has tried to present itself as a victim of international terrorism and has intensified its repressive activities against the Uyghurs. The Uyghurs have also time and again expressed their anger against the Chinese by organising terrorist activities.
Before studying the linkages between the terrorist forces of Afghanistan and Xinjiang, the study of the genesis of terrorism in Afghanistan would be necessary here.
Terrorism in Afghanistan
Although the history of Afghanistan is full of conflicts and wars, the seeds of the present-day terrorism in Afghanistan can be found in the period of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was motivated to help the communist Afghan government remain in power. The increasing influence of the USSR in Afghanistan during the Cold War period was a major cause of concern for the US. China also did not like increasing Soviet influence in its neighbourhood. Pakistan was also suspicious toward Communist encroachment of Afghanistan and apprehended possible negative effects on the political scenario of the country. To combat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the US, China, Pakistan made combined efforts by providing training, arms and ammunitions and monetary help to the Mujahideen who were fighting against the Soviet army. In 1989, the Soviet army left Afghanistan leaving Afghanistan in the lap of a vicious civil war (Bradsher 1999).
These Mujahideen along with other like-minded forces of the region were behind the formation of Taliban. In 1996, the Taliban, a radical group with an orthodox Islamic ideology, emerged victorious in civil war and ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 (Crews and Tarzi 2009).
Taliban provided support to the international terrorist infrastructure Al-Qaeda in its mission and agenda. Al-Qaeda is a militant Islamist organisation aimed to establish Islamist form of government. Osama bin Laden, who basically belonged to Saudi Arabia, came to Pakistan to continue his fight against the US, often dubbed as infidel and an inveterate enemy of Islam. Initially, there were some differences between Osama bin-Laden and Taliban, but eventually there emerged a close coordination between these two groups. Taliban acted as host to Al-Qaeda. The mutual cooperation between the Taliban and al-Qaeda strengthened the resolve of extremist and terrorist forces in the region (Linschoten and Kuehn 2012).
The attack of 9/11 changed the scenario of the all kind of politics, be it regional or global. The US-led NATO forces waged the ‘global war on terror’ against Al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist organizations workings as its cohorts. Taliban government was overthrown and the US-backed ‘Northern Alliance’ came to power in Afghanistan under the leadership of Hamid Karzai.
Although Taliban rule was ended by the NATO-forces in 2001, Taliban continued its struggle against NATO/ISAF-forces to re-establish its influence. They began to emerge since 2002 onwards. Many Afghan youth, frustrated by poverty, unemployment and NATO’s attacks on civilians, came under the banner of Taliban and joined training programmes to oust the foreign forces from their land. The initiatives of NATO-led forces to stop the poppy cultivation deprived many Afghans of their livelihood, so these people supported the militants. Finding the US busy with Iraq, the Taliban began to gain their lost influence and resurfaced with a renewed vigour unleashing a series of attacks in Afghanistan leaving scores of people dead and millions injured or maimed (Shahzad 2011).
The Taliban cadres adopted new technique like suicide-bombing that were not heard in Afghanistan till 2004. In 2006, 141 suicide attacks were conducted in Afghanistan, causing 1,166 casualties. These suicide bombers got training, explosives and other helps from the militants based in the tribal areas of Pakistan (Rashid, 2008). In 2004, a serious but missed attempt on Hamid Karzai’s life was made (Carlotta 2004). In 2006, the ISAF Operation Mountain Thrust was launched aiming at suppressing the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, but this proved largely an unsuccessful operation (Rynnng 2012).
In the successive years, the insurgency led by the Taliban escalated. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Afghanistan witnessed 8,615 civilian deaths and injuries in 2013 (UNAMA Report, 2014). In 2014, the UN reported that out of 373 districts in Afghanistan, the Taliban took full control of four districts. Afghan security forces concluded that in 2013, approximately 40 percent of the districts had a ‘raised’ or ‘high’ threat level. (Laub, 2014).
The Taliban still enjoys public support in Afghanistan. The survey by Asia Foundation in 2013, found that almost a third of Afghans are sympathetic to the Taliban. It also showed public support for the Taliban’s judicial system (The Asia Foundation, Afghanistan in 2013: A survey of the Afghan People). With the withdrawal of the NATO forces, the Taliban and other militant organizations, which still have wide support base, can further create problems for Afghanistan’s security and stability.
Recently Afghanistan also witnessed the activities of the Islamic State (IS) in its territory. In late 2014, the activities of this militant organization were detected. In January 2015, Islamic State also announced the establishment of the emirate of Khorasan out of some areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. In April 2015, the Taliban and ISIS allegedly declared jihad against each other. In June 2015, the ISIS jihadi fighters took control of at least six districts of Nangarhar province of the eastern Afghanistan, by launching military operations against the Taliban. These ISIS cadres allegedly distributed the edicts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However there is ambiguity and doubt over the linkages of these jihadis with the Middle Eastern Islamic State. However the ISIS activities in Afghanistan is of serious concern which will deteriorate situation in Afghanistan further (www.rt.com).
Spill-over and Linkages-Three Evils
China’s Xinjiang region has been on boil with several violent separatist and terrorist activities in recent years posing serious challenges to China’s unity and territorial integrity. China remains uncomfortable due to rising Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in its neighbouring countries, because it is always fearful and suspicious about the linkages among Uyghur cadres and the terrorist forces in neighbouring countries. The success of separatism in many countries and terrorism elsewhere, including Afghanistan, may encourage the Uyghurs to fight for their cause.
There are many cases that prove the linkages of the Uyghur separatists with other terrorist organisations. For instance, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) came in limelight around 2000, when a Russian newspaper reported that Al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden had assured financial assistance to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and ETIM in 1999 (Khan 2009). In 2002, a Chinese government report said that the terrorist groups had provided the ETIM with money, weapons and other necessary support. According to this report, al-Qaeda trained ETIM militants in Afghanistan. These militants established terrorist cells in Xinjiang after completing their training (Nayal 2012).
Even the US has the opinion that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has linkages with al-Qaeda. The State Department of the US said that the ETIM-militants has got training and wealth from al-Qaeda and they even fought against the NATO-led forces during ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan. 22 Uyghurs were captured from a camp in Afghanistan by the US officials in 2002. In the same year, ETIM was declared a terrorist group by the United States (Clarke 2011). Many sources suggest about the ETIM’s connection with other terrorist organisations. But ETIM-leader Hasan Mahsum did not accept the claim of organisational linkages with al-Qaeda and the Taliban and said that some Uyghurs might have fought alongside these organisation on their own and not as a part of ETIM (Radio Free Asia 2002).
In 2013, Philip Potter opined in a paper that suppression by the Chinese government compelled the Uyghur separatists to migrate in the neighbouring countries and operate their activities from there with the close affiliation to al-Qaeda and the Taliban (Patience 2014).
There are other instances of Uyghurs’ alleged connections with Afghanistan. The Uyghurs who fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s founded the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) in 2006. In 2014, TIP leader Abdullah Mansour declared jihad against China, accusing China as an ‘enemy of all Muslims’. He expressed complete sympathy and solidarity with the Uyghur’s cause (Mehsud and Golovnina 2014). The international community is also aware of Uyghurs’ linkages and participation in international terrorist groups. In 2014, an Israeli analyst warned to a delegation from China that there is a growing tendency of the involvement of the Chinese extremists in international terrorist operations (Tiezzi, 2014).
The improvement in ETIM’s methods and technique like the increasing use of internet and social networking sites to attract more youth, are the testimony of its growing linkages with international organisations. Jacob Zenn, writing in 2014, opined that growing linkages between Uyghur separatist organisations and international terrorist organizations are giving rise to commonalities in strategy and methods of operation. For instance, earlier the Uyghurs used to target police and security forces, but now they have adopted the strategy of indiscriminate civilian attacks to terrorise the Chinese government and population more widely. So, it appears that there are considerable connections among the Uyghur separatist organisations and other extremist and terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.
China is aware of the linkages of ETIM, TIP and other Uyghur separatist groups with al-Qaeda, Taliban and other international terrorist organisations. China has accused the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for its linkages to al-Qaeda and the Taliban even in 1990s. In 1996, China signed the Shanghai Treaty with the member states to ensure that the Uyghurs of Xinjiang do not get support from their sympathisers in the neighbourhood. Since the beginning of the US-led global ‘war on terror’, China has tried to pose herself as a victim of combined forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism. The motive behind doing this is to get legitimacy from the international community over its crackdown on the Uyghurs of Xinjiang (Clarke 2011).
Undoubtedly, the instability and insecurity in Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries has a significant impact on the strategic and security dynamics of China. This is the reason why China is taking active interest, bilaterally and multi-laterally, in Afghanistan’s security and overall development.
However, there is another comparatively quite different and new approach that explains why China has started to focus on Afghanistan. Yun Sun writes about “March West” strategy that was articulated by a Chinese influential international relations scholar and a professor at Peking University Wang Jisi in 2012. The strategy is that in order to avoid possible fierce competition and confrontation with United States in East Asia and South China Sea, China is focusing on the region that is located on its west side, including Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. The core point of this strategy is that in the region of East Asia including South China Sea, the U.S. is trying to contain China through various means like military alliances, creating hindrances in China’s relations with ASEAN, challenging Chinese model of regional economic integration by presenting U.S.-centric ‘Trans- Pacific Partnership’. The conflict of interests of these two global powers in this region may result even in direct military confrontation over the issues of Diaoyu or Senkaku. On the contrary, westward region is suitable for Chinese engagement due to various reasons like absence of pre-existing economic integration mechanism, U.S retreat from the area, common interests in investment, anti-terrorism, non-proliferation and regional stability and even due to prospects of development of Xinjiang region. This explanation aptly provides a new dimension to strategic calculations between Afghanistan and China (Sun 2013).
Afghan Drugs: Financing of Terrorism and Health Issues
The interplay between Afghan drugs and terrorism is another important aspect of the strategic complexities between Afghanistan and China. Afghanistan is an important opium producing country. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that in 2013 Afghanistan produced around 90 percent of the global opium supply (SIGAR 2014). The money gained from drug-trafficking is widely used for terrorist activities. In this way, Afghanistan’s poppy production and related funding of terrorism give rise to instability and insecurity in the region. In this context, Afghanistan’s drug trade is thought to be very dangerous for China’s security in its northwest. In addition to this, the menace of drug trafficking is also creating socio- economic and health-related concerns in China, especially in Xinjiang.
The illegal drug trade has been a major source of financing of terrorism in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban rule, Afghanistan produced record 4,581 ton yield of opium in 1999 (Annual Opium Poppy Survey 2000). It is estimated that in 1999, drug trade was the Taliban’s second main source of revenue, generating around $80 to $100 million (Ionas 2011). The presence of al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden in Afghanistan intensified the nexus between drug-traffickers and terrorists. Since the terrorist attack of 9/11, the inter-relation between drug trafficking and financing of terrorism has been considered as a major issue. The head of Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Directorate, Midways Yasini, estimated that the Taliban and its allies earned around $ 150 million from drugs in 2003 (Chouvy 2004). Now, Afghanistan is becoming a ‘narco-terrorist’ state. The Taliban’s 70 percent of the total income is generated from protection money and the sale of the opium. Arms and wealth is supplied by drug-traffickers and drug-lords in return for protection (Lacouture 2015).
The world community is well aware about the linkages between terrorism and illegal drug trade. The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa warned about the financing of terrorism by drug-trafficking. He even declared that fighting drug-trafficking is equal to fighting terrorism (Chouvy 2004).
The drug-trafficking from the Golden Crescent into China, via Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has resulted in growing number of health-related issues in China. The irony of the fact is that Xinjiang has not only emerged as a smuggling route, but also as a growing market for drug-consumption. Intravenous drug use is on rise among the general population that has resulted in the growing number of HIV/AIDS in China, especially in Xinjiang. Now the HIV/AIDS in Xinjiang is expanding from high-risk group to mainstream population. At the end of 2009, at least 7.4 lakh people were infected with HIV/AIDS in mainland China. In 2010, Xinjiang had the 5th largest population of reported HIV/AIDS patients or carriers among all provinces of China (Jie 2010). The increasing number of migrant workers has heightened the risk of expansion of these diseases.
The increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases has put financial burden not only on the families of the affected patients, but also on the national exchequer. Zhang Yongzhong, deputy head of Xinjiang’s health department, estimated the total government funds for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Xinjiang around $146.8 million for the year 2010. That was approximately threefold to the funds allotted in 2009 (Jie, 2010). In 2009-2010, there was a needle attack by Uyghurs on Han people in Xinjiang. The attackers were basically drug addicts, who used the intravenous drug needles to attack Han people.
Non-Traditional Security Threats and Afghanistan-China
The three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism and drug-trafficking across Afghan-Chinese border are the main topics of non-traditional security threats between Afghanistan and China. During 1990s (from 1993 to 2001), Afghanistan and China did not have formal diplomatic relations. Even after the ousting of the Taliban regime, the US played the significant role in curbing terrorism in Afghanistan.
However, to combat the menace of terrorism, China has succeeded in securing the support of Afghanistan and its neighbours for its anti-terrorism activities. In 2010, Hamid Karzai has pledged to fight three evils together with China, but there is a lack of proper system and mechanism to deal with these issues (Weitz 2010). In the same year (2010), the Chinese Defence Minister reiterated the cooperation between Afghan and the Chinese military.
China gives preference to bilateral cooperation to fight the menace of terrorism, these includes extradition treaties and assistance in police and intelligence. In 2013, a terrorist extradition treaty was signed between China and Afghanistan and they even agreed to cooperate on other security challenges like illegal immigration and trafficking of arms, drugs and people (Xinhua 2013). Many Uyghurs, suspected of getting training in terror camps in Pakistan, were extradited to China in January 2015 (Rudolph 2015). The Chinese Foreign Minister has expressed its willingness to help Afghanistan in developing its counter-terrorism capabilities in 2014.
There have been serious limitations between security cooperation between Afghanistan and China, because China has always avoided to send its military to foreign country. However, China has been providing military supplies and training to Afghan police. Now, China is trying to tackle these issues by greater participation on regional forums like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). China is well aware of the fact that the goal of regional security can’t be achieved without the participation of Afghanistan. Due to this reason, China always sided with Afghanistan’s inclusion in the SCO.
China’s Greater Engagement in Afghan Issue
Afghanistan is now getting greater attention of the Chinese government in its reconciliation and reconstruction process. China’s efforts to mediate between the Taliban and the Afghan government and to support ‘Istanbul Process’ are some of its strong evidences. China has followed the policy of non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal politics. China maintained a safe distance from the different sections of Afghan politics, be it the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. The US always played a dominating role. But in the changed environment of the withdrawal of the US-led NATO forces, China seems to be ready to accept greater responsibility in the region.
China-led ‘New Silk Road’ project will begin a new chapter in the economic development and prosperity of the region that will surely have positive implications for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and even for Afghanistan-China relations.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) can help Afghanistan in infrastructure development. The AIIB is a proposed international financial institution proposed by China which is aimed at supporting infrastructure development in the Asia-Pacific region. China consider the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank as institutions dominated by western countries. So in order to develop alternative to these institutions, China gave the idea of the establishment of the AIIB in 2014. Afghanistan, which needs massive infrastructure development to accelerate its economy, will surely get benefited by this innovative effort (Gallo 2014).
China’s Strategic Leverage
It is remarkable that China has certain leverages in the case of Afghan peace process, in comparison with the US and other powers. Firstly, China’s great booming economy provides it with huge resources to help Afghanistan in economic development. The Chinese investment in Mes Aynak and Amu Darya Basin are the evidence of it. The other advantage that China has the all-weather friendship with Pakistan. Pakistan’s closeness with the Taliban is not a secret. Pakistan can exert its influence on the Taliban in the Peace Process, when required by China. This is the advantage of friendship with
Pakistan that no other country has in the region. China, which did not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal politics in the past, does not have negative image among the Afghans. The Taliban also likes China due to its history of non-interference in the Afghan territory. In July 2014, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, assured the safety of the Chinese in Afghanistan (The Express Tribune 2014). China’s new government is adopting more pro-active foreign policy in relation to Afghanistan. The emergence of original ideas like possible joint Chinese-Indian humanitarian reconstruction projects in Afghanistan are evidence of China’s pro-active foreign policy (The Hindu, 2014).
China’s engagement in Afghanistan is not free of obstacles. Undoubtedly, the most powerful weapon of China’s foreign policy is its growing economy and financial strength. But China’s economic engagement in Afghanistan is facing many challenges. The work at Aynak is being affected by many problematic factors like the issues related to archaeological sites, falling prices of copper in the world market, security challenges etc. The Chinese investment in Afghanistan is far from its potentials. There are only 30 active projects of the Chinese companies in Afghanistan (China Daily 2014). Too much reliance on Pakistan for playing the role of facilitator between the Afghan government and the Taliban is not reliable. The Taliban has acted even before in complete independence from the Pakistan government. The Afghan people have a disliking for Pakistan’s interference in its internal matters. In spite of all these hurdles, China can play a significant role in Afghanistan due to its strategic leverages.
Afghanistan and US-China Cooperation
The approaches of the US and China have been quite different for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan, in spite of the fact that both of them wish for this to happen. The US-led NATO forces tried to bring peace in Afghanistan by military approach.
The US and other western countries contributed by putting their economic and human resources in NATO-led efforts. However, China supported the global ‘war on terror’, but refrained from military support to these efforts, in accordance with its long-standing policy of non-interference in the internal matters of other countries and due to security concerns. China was also uncomfortable with the continued presence of foreign forces in its neighbourhood. China and other regional countries, under the banner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also called for withdraw of these forces. When China started to expand its economic network in Afghanistan by obtaining natural resources, it was criticised by the western scholars as “China’s free riding on the back of the dead soldiers of the western countries, who sacrificed their lives in fighting against the extremist forces of Afghanistan” (Weitz 2011).
The recent years have witnessed growing US-China cooperation in Afghanistan matter. The US is well aware of the fact that China can influence the Pakistan government to accelerate its counter-terrorist activities. The US is also conscious of the reality that China may help in bringing peace and stability by the means of investments and financial assistance. China’s economic steps in Afghanistan will strengthen counter-insurgency by providing jobs, infrastructure and technology to this war-ravaged country. During Afghan President Ghani’s Beijing-visit in 2014, a senior US State Department Official said that Afghanistan provides an opportunity between US and China cooperation (China Daily 2014). The US and China run a joint programme every year to train some Afghan diplomats (Xinhua 2014). Even China understands that the peace and stability in Afghanistan can be brought only by the dedicated combined efforts of local, regional and global powers.
Conclusively we can state that China’s Xinjiang issue is deeply connected with Afghanistan’s internal security and stability. China is well aware of the fact that to ensure security in Xinjiang region in particular and in China in general, Afghanistan should be free from extremism and terrorism. In this background, China has started to play a much more active role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. Afghanistan’s overall social, economic, political development will bring peace and stability in the region. China’s efforts on various multilateral forums for Afghanistan’s reconstruction shows China’s greater understanding of Afghanistan issue and its connectivity with its own security and prosperity. There is a need of better engagement of these two countries with the help of other regional powers to bring stability in Afghanistan and in the region.
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