By Xu Keyue and Wan Lin
As the Chinese foreign minister is scheduled to visit three Central Asian countries on Monday, all close neighbors of Afghanistan, the timing is optimal as Afghanistan has become a regional hot spot following the withdrawal of US-led troops, Chinese analysts said.
The visit will provide a platform for China and the three countries to cooperate on regional security and China may offer financial and technical help for the countries that face challenges in securing border areas, analysts said.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan between July 12 and 16 on the invitation of the foreign ministers of the three countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced on Friday.
During the visit, Wang Yi will meet with leaders of the three Central Asian countries and hold talks with their foreign ministers, according to the spokesperson.
Against the backdrop of the hasty withdrawal of US and NATO forces and the complicated evolution of the situation in Afghanistan, this meeting is of important significance for properly dealing with the changing situation in post-withdrawal Afghanistan, jointly advancing the peace and reconciliation process, strengthening efforts to fight the three evil forces, namely, terrorist, separatist and extremist forces, and effectively maintaining regional security and stability, Wang said.
Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that the three Central Asian countries are facing the foremost security threats as Afghanistan’s neighbors.
Yang said that China might offer financial or technical help to the countries as they face challenges in securing the border areas.
China’s consistent position on the Afghan issue is to respect Afghanistan’s historical and current conditions, and to help but not interfere, which is also what separates China from the US and makes China a mediator, or a “guarantor of security” in the region, noted Yang.
As the US’ “irresponsible and hasty” withdrawal from Afghanistan has given rise to security threats in the country, regional countries are turning to China, hoping it could coordinate a multilateral framework in dealing with the issue, according to analysts.
They believe that China’s role in helping restore order in Afghanistan fits its image of a responsible power and regional stabilizer. The process of multilateral negotiations on Afghanistan issues requires profound cooperation in various fields such as economic and counter-terrorism cooperation, the analysts said.
If stability were achieved in Afghanistan, it would bring great convenience to the flow of cargo between China and Eurasia which is beneficial for cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and helps recovery of the regional economy, they noted.
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said last Wednesday that the organization sees China as a “friend” to Afghanistan and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work “as soon as possible.”
The statement of a Taliban spokesperson on China also reflects that China may have more room to be more flexible in its mediating position in Afghanistan, which is also the basis and condition for Wang Yi’s diplomatic coordination with the three countries, Yang said. Not solely focusing on regional security, Wang Yi’s visit will help stabilize the neighboring environment and advance relations with surrounding countries, Li Jianmin, academic dean of the Institute of Central Asian Studies at Northwest Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday. She noted that China may further expand collaboration with the three countries in epidemic prevention and control as the new wave of the epidemic hit Central Asia hard.
As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, during his visit to the Central Asian countries, Wang Yi will also attend multilateral events including the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting and have friendly exchanges with foreign ministers of other participating countries. Wang will discuss the situation in Afghanistan with SCO officials.