In a significant policy statement on the Taliban which is making big gains in its offensive in Afghanistan, China has asked it to make a “clean break” from all terrorist forces, especially the al-Qaeda-backed Uyghur Muslim militant group ETIM fighting for the volatile Xinjiang Province’s independence.
In his media briefing at Dushanbe, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that further spread of the war in Afghanistan, especially an all-out civil war, should be avoided and pitched for restarting of intra-Afghan negotiations to realise political reconciliation and prevention of all kinds of terrorist forces from gaining ground in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, as a major military force in Afghanistan, should realise the responsibilities it bears for the nation, make a “clean break” with all terrorist forces and return to the mainstream of Afghan politics, Mr. Wang said on July 13.
He also praised the Afghanistan government — which often accuses Beijing’s “all-weather ally” Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban militants — saying that the government headed by President Ashraf Ghani has done a lot of work for national unity, social stability and improvement of people’s livelihood, which should be justly evaluated.
Mr. Wang made the remarks during a joint press conference with Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin following their talks in Dushanbe, official media in Beijing reported on July 14.
His comments came ahead of the Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Dushanbe to be attended by Mr. Wang besides External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Significantly, Afghanistan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar has been invited to take part in the SCO contact group which will meet soon after the Foreign Ministers meeting.
The eight member SCO grouping consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Afghanistan is an observer of the SCO group.
Mr. Wang said that post the U.S. troop withdrawal, China expects Afghanistan to establish a broadly inclusive political arrangement, pursue a solid Muslim policy, resolutely combat all terrorism and extremist ideologies, and be committed to friendly relations with all neighbouring countries.
Observers say Mr. Wang’s comments on the Taliban indicate that China is not buying the Taliban’s recent overtures stating that it considers Beijing as a “friend”.
China is concerned that hundreds of East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) fighters, reportedly grouping in Afghanistan, mostly Badakhshan Province sharing a 90-km long border with Xinjiang through the narrow Wakhan corridor, will sneak into Xinjiang or through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Central Asia states.
The ETIM is trying to carry out an insurgency in Uyghur Muslim dominated Xinjiang Province. Xinjiang also shares borders with PoK and Tajikistan.
China’s massive crackdown in Xinjiang, observers say, has exasperated the resentment among native Uyghur Muslims in the province and prompted the U.S., the EU and international human rights organisations to accuse Beijing of committing genocide.