Chinese FM visits Afghanistan, shows nation's role in easing humanitarian crisis
Published: Mar 24, 2022 10:39 PM
Acting foreign minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqi (left) greets China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) on his arrival at Kabul airport on March 24, 2022. Photo: AFP

Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqi (left) greets China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) on his arrival at Kabul airport on March 24, 2022. Photo: AFP

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday visited Afghan, becoming the highest level Chinese official to visit the country since Afghanistan Taliban came to power. 

Afghan Taliban's deputy spokesperson tweeted about Wang's arrival and said Wang will meet with acting foreign minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqi. China Central Television (CCTV) later reported Wang's visit also includes a meeting with acting deputy prime minister of Afghan Taliban's interim government Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

According to a statement on website of Chinese foreign ministry, Wang talked about China's policy on Afghan issue - namely the "three respects" and "three nevers."

"China respects Afghanistan's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, respects the independent choice made by the Afghan people, and respects Afghanistan's religious beliefs and customs. China never interferes in Afghanistan's internal affairs, never seeks any self-interest in Afghanistan, and never seeks the so-called sphere of influence."

Wang stressed that as Afghan friends often say, China is the only major country that has not hurt Afghanistan. "We wish to continue the traditional friendship between the two peoples, develop relations with Afghanistan on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, help Afghanistan achieve true independence and development, and help Afghanistan master its future in its own hands," Wang said.

According to Abdul Qahar Balhki, Afghanistan's foreign ministry spokesperson on Twitter, the two sides discussed the trade of dried fruits, issuance of visas, and primary work for mining, as well as Afghanistan's role in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

Chinese observers believe one of the major themes of Wang's regional tour is to communicate with involved parties to prepare for the third foreign ministers' meeting of countries neighboring Afghanistan scheduled later this month in Beijing. 

As the host, China will exchange views with regional countries to make the upcoming meeting effective and conducive to substantial results in improving the situation in Afghanistan and jointly contribute to durable stability and security in the country, Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Afghanistan did not attend the previous two meetings of regional foreign ministers, which were held in Pakistan in September 2021, and Iran in October, respectively. Muttaqi will attend the third meeting of this mechanism, a Taliban spokesperson announced earlier on Twitter.  

When world attention has focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been persistent, which requires the joint efforts of international society, experts said. 

The already grim situation was aggravated by the US seizure of Afghanistan's assets of $7 billion. The "blatant robbery" has outraged the world. 

Zhu said Wang Yi's visit may also cover topics including how China will continue to work with other countries to ease the humanitarian crisis and economic downturn in Afghanistan, and maintain exchanges on issues of global concern, including the risks of terrorism spillover. 

Discussions may include further humanitarian aid to the country and potential economic cooperation, Zhu said. 

Wang's low-profile visit started from a visit to Pakistan to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting as a special guest. According to Indian media Economic Times, Wang will visit India on Thursday and Nepal after that. 

Chinese foreign ministry did not confirm Wang's trip to India. 

Wang's visit to India, if confirmed, could be the highest-level visit of a Chinese official to India since the COVID-19 pandemic and the border clashes.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, believes the visit will continue the positive momentum achieved at the 15th round of bilateral commander-level border talks which concluded on March 11 and bring to light the further warming of diplomatic relations that were under the shadow of the clashes. 

China and India shares similar stances on the Ukraine crisis and an exchange of views between the two countries will serve as a stabilizer to the region despite some external country's efforts to stir up trouble, Qian said.

The US has been pressuring India to drop the latter's defense and oil ties with Russia. 

Zhu dubbed Wang's regional tour as "shuttle diplomacy," showing China's important role in mediating between regional parties on issues of common interests.