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Beijing's cooperation means a lot for Kabul

By Hujjatullah Zia | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-04-20 07:24

A sculpture of doves of peace flying into the sky. [Photo/IC]

The commitment of Afghanistan's neighbors, made last week in the fourth Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Neighboring States of Afghanistan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, to assist Afghanistan to meet the challenges it faces is likely to be critical to poverty alleviation in the country. As the world's second-largest economy, China plays a significant role in the region, especially in Afghanistan, which faces a serious economic crisis due to decades of political upheaval.

Based on the principle of "shared future" and "cultural exchanges", China is seeking an active and constructive engagement in regional affairs. It believes that trade and economic exchanges can demolish the wall of mistrust and help build a strong emotional bond between countries. That is, business can bridge the gap between trading partners and infuse cultural values and sincerity in their relationship.

With this in mind, China, through its 11-point position paper on Afghanistan, affirmed its decision to put its weight behind Afghanistan's reconstruction and economic development, which will not only transform Afghanistan from a "land-locked" to a "land-linked" country but also boost China-Afghanistan relations.

After the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, poverty and the strengthening foothold of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province have become the main challenges facing the Afghan government. A large number of private and state-owned companies have stopped operations, leaving many people jobless. And the ban on women's engagement in social, political and economic activities has further compounded the economic crisis.

If one walks through Kabul's streets, one can see large numbers of beggars, including women and children, crowding in front of bakeries in the hope of getting a piece of bread for their family and hear street vendors complaining about the lack of sale and jobs, which reflect the abject poverty in the country. Life has become extremely hard for the people because many, including bread-winners, have lost their jobs. On top of that, the threats posed by the ISKP have been highly disconcerting for the public.

Personally speaking, I lost a colleague, Ali Reza Ahmadi, a reporter for the Daily Outlook Afghanistan newspaper, in 2021. When Ahmadi sought to get on an Italian military plane to Rome on Aug 26, 2021, at Kabul airport, he, along with his brother, fell victim to a suicide bomber, who blew himself up in a crowd of people waiting to be evacuated. The ISKP claimed responsibility for the explosion.

But now that there are signs of regional countries supporting Afghanistan on the economic and security fronts, we can hope the two challenges will be eased and the security threat to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries minimized.

Countries in the region seem particularly concerned about the security vacuum in the country with the ISKP and other fundamental religious groups being a common threat to the world. That's why China has been urging the international community and global stakeholders to strengthen counter-terrorism and security cooperation, both at bilateral and multilateral levels.

Many believe fundamentalism in Afghanistan is not necessarily the result of ideology or religious extremism alone; joblessness and economic pressure also have a role to play. Plus, the marginalization of other ethnic groups from power is likely to prompt many youths to join fundamental religious outfits. Hence, to show regional stakeholders that they genuinely want to counter fundamentalism, the Taliban need to create jobs for men and women, by attracting foreign investment and forming an inclusive government.

Needless to say, the security situation in Afghanistan is highly fragile. The ISKP has carried out several attacks on religious sites, educational institutions and government buildings since the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

Moreover, the suicide attack on Chinese businesspeople on Dec 10, 2022, and the targeting of the members of a Chinese delegation on Jan 11 outside the Foreign Ministry in Kabul signify the security crisis and the growing terror of the ISKP, which is apparently seeking to sever ties between China and the Taliban, and disrupt China's investment projects in the country. The continuation of such attacks will certainly have a negative impact on bilateral ties.

The Taliban therefore have to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and projects in the country. The Taliban should realize no country will tolerate a threat to its citizens in another country. In fact, any threat to another country's citizen in the country is an insult to Afghan culture, for Afghanistan is known for its hospitality. Since such incidents will raise serious questions on the ruling party's capability to govern the country, the Taliban have to not only win the trust of Afghanistan's trading partners, be it China or any other stakeholder country, but also protect their citizens and projects.

It is hoped regional stakeholders, mainly China, will support Afghanistan to alleviate poverty and strengthen security. Turning a blind eye to Afghanistan's problem and marginalizing it from global interaction and regional exchanges will create a challenge to the rest of the world.

The author is a political analyst and senior writer with Daily Outlook Afghanistan.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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