With eye on Taliban, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan urge trilateral cooperation

Afghanistan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, center, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, first left, listen as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks in Kabul on Dec. 15, 2018. (AP)

Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani of Afghanistan, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan held the 2nd Afghanistan-China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Kabul on 15 December 2018.

This is being seen as a significant development considering the prospects of US engaging in direct dialogue with the Taliban. On this occasion, China and Pakistan congratulated Afghanistan on the completion of the parliamentary elections and welcomed the efforts of the Afghan government for holding the presidential elections in 2019.

However, what transpired during this meeting has larger ramifications beyond mere pleasantries. A statement released on the occasion said that the three sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening their relations, deepening cooperation, and advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and other regional economic initiatives.

“The three sides agreed to promote China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral cooperation under the framework of jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative. The three sides reiterated their strong resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and without any distinction,” said the statement.

Mutual trust

The three Foreign Ministers agreed to jointly continue their efforts for building political mutual trust and support reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and counter-terrorism as the three areas of the trilateral cooperation, said the statement.

“The three sides reiterated their support to the Afghan-owned, and Afghan led inclusive peace process that is fully supported regionally and internationally, as the most viable way to bring peace in Afghanistan,” it said.

China and Pakistan appreciated the efforts of President Ghani especially for the comprehensive peace plans that came out of the second Kabul Process and the Geneva Conferences on Afghanistan, and therefore called on the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process at an early date.

“While efforts are underway to start the peace process, the three sides call upon the parties concerned to end violence and the loss of innocent lives in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Potential for cooperation

The three sides agreed to continue economic development cooperation in areas of mutual interest and promised to continue to implement and expand the “soft” projects such as exchange and capacity building programs and explore “hard” projects of livelihood facilities and connectivity.

“China supports enhanced coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan on major energy and connectivity projects including the construction of Quetta-Kandahar railway and Kabul-Peshawar Motorway and Railway. The three sides reiterated their firm commitment to implement the activities and projects agreed to under practical cooperation,” said the statement.

The three sides took stock of trilateral cooperation in their fight against terrorism and underlined the need to further strengthen counter-terrorism coordination and cooperation in an effort to combat all terrorist groups and individuals without any discrimination.

Countering terror

They also agreed to counter terrorist’ logistical capabilities including financing, recruitment, training, and strengthen trilateral cooperation for counter-terrorism capacity building.

All the sides expressed determination to deny terrorist use of the internet and to take joint steps for de-radicalization, as well as work together to break the nexus between narco-trade and terror financing.

To advance their cooperation in the fields of Counter-Terrorism, the three sides signed the MoU on Counter-Terrorism. The 3rd Afghanistan-China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue would be held in Islamabad in 2019.

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