Kabul seeks Asia links, not competition

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-31 0:08:01

Janan Mosazai Photo: Wang Wenwen/GT

Editor's Note

The Afghan Taliban have confirmed that their leader Mullah Mansour was killed in a US drone strike recently and that they have appointed a successor. What does this mean for the Afghan peace process and regional stability? How to promote Afghan reconciliation? Janan Mosazai (Mosazai), newly appointed Afghan ambassador to China, talked to Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen, his first interview with a Chinese media outlet since assuming the position, about the latest situation in Afghanistan and his views on Afghanistan-China relations.

Listen to the full interview

GT: What does the death of Mansour mean to Afghanistan?

: The government of Afghanistan has a clear principle regarding our peace and reconciliation efforts. We will keep the door of negotiations open for any Afghan opposition group, including Taliban groups, to come and join their legitimate and elected government in peace negotiations. Whoever causes harm to and carries out attacks against the people of Afghanistan will be opposed with force.

We had extended an olive branch to Mansour as the new leader of the Taliban to choose the path of peace. We had pursued those efforts through multiple channels including the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) mechanism, of which China is also a key member. Unfortunately, Mansour, until the very end, did not give a positive response to the call of the Afghan government. Instead, he opposed joining the peace process and increased the number of attacks, especially against civilian targets. His removal from the scene should be viewed as an opportunity by everybody, especially those groups and leaders within the Taliban who believe in reconciliation. We hope they grasp this opportunity and issue a positive message of engagement with the peace process.

Yes, there will likely be further attacks, bombings and violence. We will protect ourselves and the historical achievements of the Afghan people over the past 10-15 years. But our preference is for the Taliban groups and opposition groups to come to the table and for all relevant parties and governments to support us in that process.

GT: Afghanistan has been vocal about Pakistan's role in the peace process and concerned about China's close relations with Pakistan. You served as Afghan ambassador to Pakistan before. How will this role help your current position as ambassador to China?

We want a close relationship with Pakistan. We have common interests in more areas than we can count. We are facing numerous common challenges especially from terrorism and extremism. Through the constructive and positive engagement of all three countries, we can find solutions to some of the vexing challenges we have been facing.

We support the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. We would like to link up with it and facilitate the linking of Central Asian countries with the corridor. Perhaps it is time for us to enhance cooperation in areas that can benefit our people. One missing element in the region is that we are facing a common enemy, namely terrorism and extremism, but we lack a common plan to fight this common enemy.

GT: Pakistan hosted the fifth QCG meeting recently to discuss a road map for negotiating a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban. What was the outcome? How do you evaluate the role of each participant?

: The meeting is a mechanism that still continues. Our ambassador in Islamabad attended the last meeting. China is a key member of that group and we value China's role and contribution to the work of the QCG very highly. Pakistan has an essential role to play and we hope that support will be forthcoming. The US is a strategic partner of Afghanistan and provides support to our development and defense forces. We have common interests in fighting terrorism and extremism.

My preference would be not to compare different relationships. It is more useful to focus on the content and the foundations of common interests and common challenges of each relationship, because each has its own characteristics and uniqueness.

GT: What is the impetus of Afghanistan-China relations?

: Today, our two countries and governments enjoy extremely close ties and cooperation in all dimensions of our relationship. There is political cooperation between Afghanistan and China and we provide support to each other at the political level bilaterally, regionally and internationally.

With regards to cooperation in the realm of economic affairs, the trade relationship between our two countries has been growing steadily over the past 10-15 years since the establishment of the new post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. Although the trade volume is not reflective of the huge potential, there has been a significant increase since 2001 and we would like to see significant and further expansion in trade and investment cooperation.

Likewise, we have deepened our security cooperation, especially with regard to counter-terrorism and the common fight we have against terrorist groups including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), against which Afghanistan has done more than any other country. We will continue that fight because we view the ETIM as the common foe of Afghanistan and China and the entire region.

There has also been an increase, which we are grateful for, in China's military assistance. We also have around two dozen Afghan officers receiving military training in China and we would like to see the number grow. There have been zero obstacles in our relationship.

GT: India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed a tripartite agreement to turn the Iranian port of Chabahar into a transit hub. Some believe the cooperation is a challenge to the Gwadar port project between China and Pakistan and to China's "Belt and Road" initiative. What do you think?

: Afghanistan, today and throughout history, has held a central and key position in this region, linking South Asia with Central Asia, and China and the rest of East Asia with Iran and the rest of West Asia including the Middle East. We would like to benefit from every piece of investment that is made in infrastructure and connectivity development in this region.

We enjoy the importance and vitality of the Afghanistan-China relationship, which is irreplaceable. At the same time, we have an extraordinarily close relationship with India, a country with which we also share millennia of ties and government-to-government cooperation.

We have never and will never look at the two strategic relationships that Afghanistan has with the two important neighbors in the context of any competition.

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