Chinese gambit

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

China took up the issue of Uighur militants with both Ashraf Ghani and Nawaz Sharif when they visited Beijing recently. China is highly concerned about the terrorists from Sinkiang who have taken shelter in areas on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border. The issue again cropped up at the ministerial conference of Istanbul Process held in Beijing. China, according to a report filed by Reuters, volunteered to play role in Afghan peace process by proposing a ‘peace and reconciliation forum’, with representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the Taliban high command.

In case the report is true, Pakistan needs to accept the proposal without delaying things too long. What is more, it should use whatever leverage it has with the Afghan Taliban to join the initiative. Earlier attempts by the US to bring the Taliban on board failed due to multifarious reasons that included, inter alia, domestic American politics, sabotage of the Doha process by Karzai government and doubts and suspicions persisting between the US and Pakistan. The new Afghan government has excellent relations with China as indicated by Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Beijing within a month of taking the oath of office. By agreeing to join the peace and reconciliation process, Islamabad can achieve its aim of taking its relations with Afghanistan to a higher level.

It remains to be seen whether China would succeed where others like US, EU and Turkey failed. China has no doubt strong points. It is a major power having large investments both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead of taking recourse to strong-arm tactics it relies on the extension of soft power, seeking mutually beneficial trade and investment and helping countries in the development of infrastructure. Most of all its leadership avoids displaying hubris. Despite the events in Sinkiang, Pakistani and Afghan media as well as political and religious parties have maintained a positive view of China. At a time when terrorist forces are on the offensive the proposed peace and reconciliation forum can act as a formidable bulwark against them.

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