Beijing leadership is paying more attention to the security, political and economic situation in Afghanistan than ever before. After the US invasion of Afghanistan, China has been a reluctant player in the context of regional politics. It has played minimal role in the past. For nearly a decade the Chinese authorities were passive regarding the neighboring country and provided little humanitarian and technical assistance to Kabul. However, complete security transition in Afghanistan and emergence of Daesh, known as the Islamic State in the developed world, have prod the Chinese policymakers to support the Afghan government. The aid package that was delivered to Kabul a few years ago was minimal than many donors.
This year, China pledged $70 million to improve security situation in Afghanistan. By the end of 2015, Beijing has realized how important improved relations with Kabul are. The fear that Daesh would make inroad into China by securing allegiance of the Uyghur militants have forced Beijing to become an active player. The Chinese authorities started to support Kabul in security sector. But as a matter of fact, China has more economic interests in the country than geo-strategic. It is Beijing’s plus point because it remained neutral, though, maintained close ties with Islamabad. On Security front, the Chinese government failed to pressurize Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other trans-regional terror organizations.
Formation of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, comprising of Afghanistan, China, the US and Pakistan did not placate the situation. Hopes that China will use its influence to convince Pakistan that using terrorism as strategic assets is not in anyone’s interest, have not turned into reality. Thus, Afghans have no or little expectations from Beijing when it comes to the reconciliation process. Afghans have learnt that home-made solutions work better than that suggested by the foreigners. Peace agreement with the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan is the product of self efforts.
However, China can play role in improving Afghan economy by completing the projects that were awarded to her. Despite repeated calls, the Chinese company failed to build the necessary infrastructure and extract copper from the Mes Aynak mine. This project will change fate of Afghan people. Unfortunately, the Chinese company is using delaying tactics to get more concession. China is seeking easy ways to export goods to Afghanistan. The “One Road, One Belt” project will be of no use for Afghans if it was connecting certain areas of the country with the outer world and ignoring several provinces.
Therefore, China shall invest in infrastructure rebuilding in Afghanistan and kick off work on the stalled projects such as Mes Aynak copper mine. Building railroad network in Afghanistan will be productive investment from the neighboring country. China should also invest in communication, power and health sectors. Besides that facilities should be provided to Afghan traders to export their goods to China as well. Afghanistan is already a consumer country. Mere import of Chinese products will not help Afghanistan. Hence, Chinese shall invest in areas that could strengthen the Afghan economy rather than making the country dependent on foreign products import.