Taliban discuss their strategy in China, India reacts

BEIJING: A Taliban delegation led by its chief negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar on Wednesday met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and discussed the current Afghan situation. The current situation in Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed during the meeting, said Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

In a series of tweets, the Taliban assured China that Afghan territory would not be used against the security of any country.

China’s foreign minister met a Taliban delegation, signalling warming ties as the United States-led foreign forces continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Taliban in China

Wang Yi on Wednesday told the nine visiting Taliban representatives, which included the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, that Beijing expected it to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, China pledged to continue and expand its cooperation with the Afghan people, saying that they would not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs, but would help solve problems and build peace.

This comes as Taliban-led violence has increased in Afghanistan as foreign troops are withdrawing from the war-torn country.

Taliban has escalated its offensive against security forces and civilians. They are rapidly gaining territory in Afghanistan.

‘Moreover, they are imposing archaic rules on the captured territories and being a Sunni outfit, the Shias fear sectarian violence against them.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban, in Tianjin

Beijing has been closely watching the progress of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and sought to play a bigger role in the country.

At a meeting with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in June, Wang vowed to “bring the Taliban back into the political mainstream” and offered to host intra-Afghan peace talks.

“China’s position is that this should be resolved within Afghanistan. And the situation in Afghanistan should not threaten China’s security,” a source said, naming security in Xinjiang and Chinese investments in the region as some of Beijing’s top concerns.

China previously hosted the Taliban in 2019, when a nine-member delegation travelled to Beijing and met Deng Xijun, then special representative for Afghanistan. 

China told a visiting Taliban delegation on Wednesday it expected the insurgent group to play an important role in ending Afghanistan’s war and rebuilding the country, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Nine Taliban representatives met Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on a two-day visit during which the peace process and security issues were discussed, a Taliban spokesperson said.

Wang said the Taliban are expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry.

He also said that he hoped the Taliban would crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as it was a “direct threat to China’s national security”, according to the readout, referring to a group China says is active in the Xinjiang region in China’s far west.

Beijing has regularly blamed ETIM, a separatist group largely comprising members of ethnic Uighur descent, for attacks as it justifies its measures in Xinjiang, where rights groups say that one million or more Uighurs or other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people are incarcerated in camps.

But scholars say that China has produced little evidence that ETIM is an organised group or that it is to blame for attacks in Xinjiang, which separatists call East Turkestan.

India’s reaction

India on Thursday lashed out at the Taliban while referring to the recently concluded discussions between the group’s political leadership and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin.

“I would like to reiterate that India, and the world, wish to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan, at peace with itself and neighbors,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a weekly briefing when asked to comment on the discussions.

“Unilateral imposition of will by any party will not be democratic, cannot lead to stability, and cannot provide legitimacy. Gains over the last two decades should be preserved”, remarked the Indian official.

The comments follow a nine-member Taliban delegation´s meeting with the Chinese foreign minister and Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao on 28 July. The Taliban delegation was led by the head of the political committee, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi

During the discussions, Wang recognized the Taliban as an “important military and political force” in Afghanistan. Wang further stated that he expected the Islamist insurgent group to play a significant role in Afghanistan’s peace process.

“As a military and political force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban has in recent years maintained dialogue and contact with the Afghan government and the international community,” FM spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at the daily briefing on 29 July.

“We hope the Afghan Taliban will put the interests of the country and nation first, hold high the banner of peace talks, set the goal of peace, build a positive image, follow an inclusive policy, return to the political mainstream in moderate ways, and play an important role in the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process,” the Chinese official further stated.

The Taliban, for its part, has assured China that it won’t let terrorist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) use Afghanistan’s territory for actions against Beijing. The ETIM is a United Nations (UN)-proscribed terror outfit advocating for a separate Uyghur homeland.

The meeting between the Taliban and Beijing drew a reaction from the Afghan government too, which said in a press release on 28 July that the “purpose” of the meeting was to convey Beijing’s concerns about the presence of foreign terrorists in Afghanistan.

“Given the common security threats and mutual political and economic interests, and in light of recent talks between the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of the two countries, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan expects the Chinese government to play its valuable role in strengthening regional consensus and exerting international pressure on the Taliban to end violence, establish a ceasefire, ensure peace and end the presence of foreign terrorists in Afghanistan,” Kabul said in its official statement.