By Manzoor Ahmed
Pakistan may hope to get a backdoor entry into Afghanistan, if the agreement signed by Afghan, Pakistani and Chinese Foreign Ministers in Beijing on December 26 last year, works at all. In this trilateral meeting the three Foreign Ministers committed their countries to improving their relations, to deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, to advancing connectivity under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and to fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations without any distinction. China offered Afghanistan to join the China-Pakistan Corridor (CPEC) and warned India against “disturbing” the BRI.
The trilateral meeting was attended by Salahuddin Rabbani, Khawaja Asif and Wang Yi, the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, respectively. A day after the meeting Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson Hua Chunying expounded the agreement. She said the CPEC was not directed at any third country. It serves the common interests of the three countries. “It is an economic cooperation programme and it should not be politicised and has nothing to do with territorial dispute”, she said. Afghanistan, she said, was a common neighbours of China and Pakistan who strongly desired to develop their economy integrated into the regional connectivity process and into CPEC and to promote connectivity under the BRI framework. Hua added that the three foreign ministers agreed to support Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction and reconciliation peace process; help Afghanistan and Pakistan improve and develop ties; promote joint security of the region and promote regional connectivity and the BRI.
The three Foreign Ministers agreed on an eight point plan to bring peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan through, among other things, a security mechanism to enhance counter-terror terrorism cooperation. To help this, the two countries will use their, clerics. They called upon the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process.
From Hua’s reporting of whatever transpired at the tripartite meeting in Beijing on December 26, it seems China believes that the whole world has been suffering from amnesia. It seems to think the world does not remember legal and historical facts about Gilgit-Baltistan through which CPEC illegally passes. Both China and Pakistan project India as Satan for opposing CPEC while deceitfully hiding reasons for India’s objections. Hua unabashedly claimed that the CPEC had “nothing to do with territorial dispute”. She forgot that Pakistan’s official maps show Gilgit-Baltistan as a disputed territory. Nobody reminded her that her own country acknowledged it as a disputed territory in the so-called March 1963 “boundary agreement” with Pakistan. She can afford ignorance or an arrogance of carelessness because her country is high on the aggressive might-is-right pill. The CPEC is a monument of Chinese lies and aggression not only against the Pakistan-occupied territory of India but also against its (Gilgit-Baltistan’s) people and the people of Baluchistan and also Sindh.
Hua said the CPEC should not be politicised. But what is the driving force behind China’s new-found concern for Afghanistan? Is it not politics to try to create misunderstanding between two very close friends, India and Afghanistan, by offering the latter to join the CPEC and thus make it become a supporter of aggression against its own friend? On the other hand, China wants to impose a compulsive Afghanistan in the name of integrity and connectivity. Pakistan has been the bane of Afghanistan’s life since the days of the former King Zaheer Shah. Since then it has been Pakistan’s pastime to keep trying destabilising this country. In the past 15 years this pastime has taken the form of deception and violence or frequent genocide committed by Pak-based terrorists while talking of peace in Afghanistan. It has been responsible for the acts of terrorism committed in that country by “good” Afghan Taliban living in safe havens in Pakistan. No allurement, not even America’s $ 33 billion in the past 15 years, could make Pakistan drop the Haqqani Network (HN) because in it the generals in Rawalpindi see the fulfilment of its Afghan agenda or in concrete terms, ‘strategic depth’.
China betrayed the falsehood of its concern for Afghanistan’s economy when it condemned Indo-Afghanistan air freight corridor launched on June 19 last year bypassing Pakistan. An article in China’s official daily “Global Times”, said this air corridor was an attempt by New Delhi to counterbalance CPEC and showed its “stubborn geopolitical thinking”. The purpose of this air corridor is to boost trade between India and land-locked Afghanistan. This corridor is the result of Pakistan’s constant refusal to allow land transit facilities for trade between India and Afghanistan.
The Global Times article refers to the transport and transit agreement among Afghanistan, India and Iran in May 2016 to develop the Chabahar port with the objective of among other things, to break Afghanistan’s landlocked handicap and help it to trade with the world. But China may be conspiring against this project. China’s all-weather friend Pakistan, is upset at this project because it will provide Afghanistan access to the sea via Iran, thus reducing Pakistan’s importance for it. There are reports in Iranian media that China has approached Iran with a request to joining Chabahar port with CPEC. Managing director of Chahbahar Free Trade Zone reportedly said that China wants to use Chabahar Port to transport its goods from Gwadar Port. India is committed to giving 500 million dollars, as its share, for the development of the Chahbahar port,
As part of disinformation, the Global Times article advises India to develop economic ties and trade relations with Pakistan. Readers of this Chinese propaganda organ should be told that India gave Pakistan the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status years ago without reciprocation from the other side till now. It cannot be a secret from the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad that the successive civilian governments of Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) could not establish trade relations with India because of warnings against it from their Army and its minions.
A comical thing happened at the tripartite meeting in Beijing as reported by Hua. She said the foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan agreed that Afghanistan and Pakistan will promote the exchanges of their clerics to avoid the spread of religious extremism. What makes this part of the agreement comical is the foreign ministers’ childlike trust that Pakistani clerics can play a constructive role in the society ignoring their unbroken record of destructive roles. Just imagine what havoc they can play in almost sectarianism-free Afghanistan. Note also the duplicity of China, a party to this agreement from its own Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang where it is trying to banish Islam and its practices.
To convert Muslims into un-godly people, Chinese authorities have sent thousands of practicing Muslims to places which they call ‘correction centres’. Authorities have been collecting the DNA of the local people. China makes no bones about its distrust in Muslims in Xinjiang, but it has faith in the Pakistani clerics, who in turn ignore the persecution of Muslims in China.
As it appears behind the flowery and ceremonial declarations of the said trilateral, some motives would be clear in the coming months when China would try to exploit the natural resources of Afghanistan in the name of peace-building and reconstruction process. Moreover, as the latest reports from Beijing indicate that China would also use the Jiwani peninsula near Gwadar and very close to Pakistan-Iran border to build a naval base, whereas Pakistan would attempt to have a backdoor entry into Afghanistan for whose uninterrupted misery, Pakistan has to be blamed primarily.