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Thursday, February 15, 2024

China denies opening a military base in Afghanistan but the idea is not at all unreasonable

News Analysis |

A Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported that China is planning to establish a military base in the Wakhan corridor, a patch of land which links both countries, for the purpose of providing training to the Afghan National Army. The newspaper quoted a source from the Chinese military on the condition of anonymity which further stated that the purpose of the base would be to strengthen the potential of Afghan forces in the counter-terrorism operations.  Later China along with the Afghan embassy in China refuted the content of the particular report citing that no such project is the part of Chinese plan in Afghanistan.

Russian news agency Ferghana News also reported in January that Beijing would finance a new military base in Badakhshan after defense ministers from the two countries agreed last year to work together to fight terrorism, citing General Davlat Vaziri from Afghanistan’s defense ministry.

China is concerned about the exponentially increasing activities of ISIS in Afghanistan, an organization which has threatened China with “Rivers of Blood” in the past. On top of that, there have been reports that Muslims Chinese from conflict-torn Xinjiang province have fled in scores and joined ISIS fighter in Syria. The government has taken punitive measures in Xinjiang the merits of which are often under criticism because of the excessive, indiscriminate use of force against the Muslim population.

Uighurs of Xinjiang, the majority of which are Muslim by faith, have been up to an armed struggle against the Chinese government for the autonomy claiming that the region was never part of the Chinese mainland in history. The violence has particularly increased after the Chinese government took drastic steps against the Muslim population. Before ISIS, there had been reports of Uighur fighters among the ranks of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The security threat was perceived and conveyed to the respective governments by China.

The other important reason China is gravely invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan is that of its Belt and Road initiative. The road for the sustainable peace in this vicinity of South Asia starts from Afghanistan. China is as of now part of a Quadrilateral Coordination Group – containing Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States – that was built up to end the extended Afghan emergency. The gathering has not accomplished any huge achievement up until now, with Islamabad and Kabul at loggerheads over the militancy issue, and Beijing and Washington lacking trust.

Specialists say that China has intensely put resources into Pakistan and that is the reason it needs peace, in any event, those regions where its “One Belt One Road” venture is being executed. China has assembled a port in the Baluchistan as a component of its about 60-billion-dollar venture to set up overland and ocean exchange courses to achieve Middle Eastern, European and African markets.

China and Russia have actively been involved in the backdoor diplomacy with the Afghan leadership to safeguard their own interests. Beijing is seeking Pakistan’s assistance not only to help create peace in Afghanistan but also to keep regional rival India at bay.

The United States and India, both rivals of China, have an active engagement with the Afghan Army and the net effect could be seen by the growing hostility of ANA toward the state of Pakistan. Chinese presence in terms of capacity building of the Afghan forces is going to bear fruits for both Pakistan and China in the long term.  Owing to all these factors, the idea itself of having an operational Chinese base inside Afghanistan can help China to restrict the U.S and Indian influence on the Afghan stakeholders.