China offers to host Afghan peace talks backs leading role for Ghani-led govt

By K J M Varma
     Beijing, May 18 (PTI) China, which has stepped up its diplomacy between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of the US troops withdrawal from the war-torn country, has offered to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
     Significantly, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who in the last two-days held telephone talks with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts, said that China will back the Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani in playing a leading role.
     The offer to facilitate peace talks was made during Wang's phone talks with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here on Tuesday.
     Asked to elaborate, Zhao said, “China is ready to facilitate intra-Afghan talks and will provide necessary conditions for negotiation in China.”
     The US had announced its plans to withdraw its troops completely from Afghanistan by September.
     The US troop pull-out has raised concerns in Beijing that it may lead to the regrouping of Xinjiang province’s Uygur Muslim militants in Afghanistan, which shares borders with China.
     During their telephonic conversation, Wang told Atmar that "China will continue to support the Afghan government in playing a leading role in the country's peace and reconciliation process", state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
     Wang also called on all parties to support and implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions to promote a smooth transition of the Afghanistan situation, to avoid in particular a resurgence of terrorist forces, it said.
     In a comment that may not go down well with the Taliban, Wang, according to the report, expressed his hope that Afghanistan's future leadership will pursue a moderate Muslim policy, promote a foreign policy of peace, maintain friendship with neighbouring countries, and firmly combat all forms of terrorism.
     Wang’s talks with Atmar came a day after he held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi during which he called on the UN to play its “due role” to fill the void being left by the US troops withdrawal.
     Wang told Qureshi that the "hasty withdrawal" of the US troops from Afghanistan has severely impacted the Afghan domestic peace process and negatively affected regional stability.
     Under such circumstances, China expects the UN to play its "due role". He, however, did not elaborate the "due role".
     Wang also said that the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), of which India and Pakistan are members, should pay more attention to the situation and Afghanistan's neighbours to strengthen communication, speak in one voice and take coordinated actions.
     China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan are the SCO members.
     Observers say that the US' plan to speed up its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may have troubling consequences for China, specially for its volatile Xinjiang province.
     China has been expressing its concern over the US move despite tensions with Washington on a host of issues, including America's allegation of a genocide against Muslim Uygurs by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. It denies the allegations of running mass detention camps and violating human rights of Uygurs.
     The previous Trump administration had also lifted a ban on the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uygur militant outfit active in Xinjiang.
     The ETIM was designated as a terrorist organisation by the UN's 1267 counter-terrorism committee in 2002 for its alleged association with al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
     Reports from Afghanistan said some of the recent attacks were attributed to the consolidation of the Islamic State militants who fought in Syria until recently.
     China is concerned that hundreds of Uygur militants, who joined ISIS in Syria, could threaten the peace and stability in Xinjiang. PTI KJV SCY AKJ SCY

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)