It will soon be said that the Afghans expelled the Americans, like the Soviets before, only to end up falling into the arms of China. The rapprochement between the Taliban and Beijing is becoming less and less hidden. This Thursday, the Foreign Minister of the resurrected Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan defended her in the presence of his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Tibet no less. “We see threats to China as if they were threats to our own security,” said Amir Jan Muttaqi, at three thousand meters above sea level.
At the meeting, within the framework of the Third Trans Himalayan Forum, the Chinese host emphasized “respect for territorial sovereignty and integrity”, before representatives of a dozen countries in the region. He has also done it in Nyingchi, a Tibetan city near the Sino-Indian border. Specifically, the territory that India converted into the state of Arunachal Pradesh but that Beijing insists on claiming as “Southern Tibet.”
Although the Himalayan event also had an eye on Xinjian, a Muslim-majority Chinese province, where Uyghurs represent more than 40% of the population. Hence the enormous importance for China of its close relationship with Pakistan and, increasingly, with Afghanistan.
The secessionist Turkestan Islamic Party, which Wang referred to by its former name of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, is considered a terrorist organization by the UN and many of its militants fought against Bashar al-Assad in Syria over the past decade. .
The latter was received, by the way, last week in Hangzhou by President Xi Jingping, on the occasion of the Asian Games, to which the Maoist Prime Minister of Nepal, Prachanda, and the Prime Minister of East Timor, Xanana, were also invited. Gusmao, both former guerrillas.
The delegation of one hundred Afghan athletes was loudly applauded in Hangzhou, as Wang Yi wanted to remember at the Himalayan event, which ends this Friday.
It is worth highlighting the meeting between the heads of Afghan and Pakistani diplomacy. The latter, Jalil Abbas Jilani (in office until the January elections), has set November 1 as the deadline for the 1.7 million Afghans living illegally in Pakistan (2.2 million do so legally) to return to his country. An ultimatum very poorly received by the Taliban, who are however beginning to set up a refugee camp “for families with women in charge and homeless people.”
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for the spike in violence within its borders, for serving as a refuge for the “Pakistani Taliban”, something that Kabul denies. Pakistan’s interior minister has also said that most suicide bombers come from Afghanistan. Although the truth is that they also attack Kabul to destabilize the Taliban regime.
The latter continues to outrage half the world after denying schooling in public centers to adolescent girls – first – and then to university students. China, like many Western and Islamic countries, has joined the chorus of condemnation. With the difference that the Chinese government is the only one that – last month – has dared to appoint a new ambassador in Kabul, despite the fact that it theoretically does not recognize the Emirate.
Pakistan threatens to deport 1.7 million Afghans starting in November
Other countries, such as Russia or Iran, also never closed their embassies in Kabul after the fall of the previous regime. While some others, such as Türkiye or India, have reopened them.
Although corruption and insecurity have decreased after the return of the Taliban and poppy cultivation has plummeted – all things recognized even by its detractors – the country survives precariously. The economy has not collapsed as expected, but the Taliban needs international partners to revive the economy and China seems the most willing to take risks.
These came to light last December, when a hotel in Kabul frequented by Chinese businessmen suffered an attack, which left several of the latter injured. In January, the Afghan Foreign Ministry itself was attacked while a Chinese delegation was inside.
Chinese companies have a great interest in exploiting Afghanistan’s proven copper and unproven lithium reserves. In the first case, these are awards from the previous pro-American government that could never materialize.
Since the summer, there has been a land corridor that links China and Afghanistan weekly through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, alternating rail and road transport of the same merchandise. A temporary fix. For large volumes, Afghanistan remains dependent on the Pakistani port of Karachi.
The same Taliban diplomats – forgive the oxymoron – who returned from Russia last week, this week have looked in China for a way to establish an air corridor, according to Afghan agencies. This exists, for example, on a very small scale, for the Afghan production of pine nuts.
No one from India has attended the Himalayan trans event. It should be noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend, for the first time, a G-20 summit last month in New Delhi. One of the reasons that he undoubtedly took into account was the possibility that the Tibetan exile – which has its nerve center between the Indian capital and the foothills of MacLeod Ganj – would spoil his visit before the eyes of the world with protests.
New Chinese ambassador in Kabul
Afghanistan and China are already discussing the creation of an air corridor
India does have, since Wednesday, its sights set on the Himalayas, but for more pressing reasons. The overflow of a glacial lake in Sikkim has left a long list of dead and missing, in many cases soldiers destined to protect the line of control with China (there is no mutually recognized border). A case of bad luck, since climate change was one of the star topics of the Trans-Himalayan Forum, which began that day.
In any case, the late patriarch of Narendra Modi’s BJP, former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, sealed a somewhat unequal pact in his day, as the forces were even more unequal today. New Delhi recognized the immense Tibet as part of China in exchange for Beijing recognizing small Sikkim as part of India. The delimitation of borders was again left for later.
Finally, it should be added that China will finally receive the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, next week, after two postponements so far this year, for different reasons.