Afghan-Pakistan mechanisms introduced by China key to regional reconciliation

By Xiao Bin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/28 19:03:39

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Afghanistan and Pakistan from June 24 to 25, as China takes over the rotating presidency of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is the first time that a top Chinese official visited South-Central Asia since Pakistan joined the SCO. One of the important purposes of this visit was to improve relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and mediate in the Afghan reconciliation process.

Over the past year, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to deteriorate, with armed conflict breaking out along the border. The core dispute is over countering the Taliban in Afghanistan. Promoting the reconciliation process has become the most significant work of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The deadly explosion in the capital of Kabul on May 31 was the most serious terrorist attack against civilians since international forces led by the US entered Afghanistan in 2001.

After this attack, Afghanistan hosted an international conference named "Kabul Process," where Ghani publicly denounced Pakistan's support of armed insurgents in Afghanistan. This public statement was an extreme diplomatic measure.

Pakistan's foreign office responded, "The onus of setbacks and failures in Afghanistan should not be blamed on Pakistan. Mere rhetoric of blaming others to hide their failures in Afghanistan will not solve the problem." Meanwhile, the military in Pakistan said, "Instead of blaming Pakistan, Afghanistan needs to look inward and identify the real issues."

Improving the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has become an urgent problem to be solved by China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since becoming president of Afghanistan, Ghani has been trying to improve relations with Pakistan, but was obstructed by internal interest groups, and had to adopt a tough policy toward Pakistan. The deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan's national interest, and will even affect investment from China's Belt and Road initiative. The improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is in line with China's interests in South-Central Asia.

The most notable achievement of Wang Yi's successful shuttle diplomacy in Afghanistan and Pakistan was that China, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to strengthen international mechanisms for maintaining peace. According to a trilateral joint press statement, the three nations' agreements include establishing a crisis management mechanism between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign minister dialogue mechanism, restarting the Quadrilateral Coordination Group and reviving SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.

Wang's brief but significant shuttle visit improved Afghan-Pakistani relations, created a good external environment for the Afghan reconciliation process, and showed the world that China is a responsible major power. However, the two countries' relationship is vulnerable and requires more effort to improve. If the mechanisms described in the joint press statement prove effective, they will be essential for the Afghan reconciliation process.

But the process not only needs China's active coordination but also the participation of the international community. Pakistan and Afghanistan have to make their best efforts to abide by the consensus in the joint press statement, rationally deal with the problems between the two countries, and promote the "spirit of the  SCO" to maintain regional order and become a new impetus for peace and development in South-Central Asia.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


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