Afghanistan has ‘extraordinary’ ties with India, but backs China-Pak corridor

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Jun 01, 2016 01:58 IST
The $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor  is a crucial aspect of President Xi Jinping’s  “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port (in picture) (AFP File)

Afghanistan has an “extraordinarily” close relationship with India but supports the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Kabul’s new envoy to Beijing has said.

In an interview with Chinese state media, Janan Mosazai also said Afghanistan would like to be part of the CPEC and connect it to central Asian countries.

“We enjoy the importance and vitality of the Afghanistan-China relationship, which is irreplaceable. At the same time, we have an extraordinarily close relationship with India, a country with which we also share millennia of ties and government-to-government cooperation,” he told Global Times newspaper, a tabloid from the People’s Daily stable.

The $46-billion CPEC is a crucial aspect of President Xi Jinping’s  “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port. India opposes the Beijing-sponsored strategic passageway as it passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

So far, Beijing’s public response has been to say it is an economic project not aimed at a third country. Recently, Premier Li Keqiang said the CPEC is “not only a flagship project between the two sides, but also conducive to development and prosperity of the whole region”.

Mosazai seemed to be echoing this position. “We support the CPEC. We would like to link up with it and facilitate the linking of Central Asian countries with the corridor. Perhaps it is time for us to enhance cooperation in areas that can benefit our people,” Mosazai said, indicating that cooperation in the region would help fight terrorism and extremism.

Mosazai , who had previously served as Afghanistan’s top envoy in Islamabad, was asked whether the Chabahar port – for which India, Iran and Afghanistan had recently signed an agreement– was a challenge to the Gwadar port and China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

He said Kabul’s relationships, both with New Delhi and Beijing, are strategic and it will be never be competitive. “We have never and will never look at the two strategic relationships that Afghanistan has with the two important neighbours in the context of any competition.”

On ties with China, he said: “Today, our two countries and governments enjoy extremely close ties and cooperation in all dimensions of our relationship. There is political cooperation between Afghanistan and China and we provide support to each other at the political level bilaterally, regionally and internationally.”

Militarily too, Kabul and Beijing are closely tied, he said, recalling China’s help to fight against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

“We have deepened our security cooperation, especially with regard to counterterrorism and the common fight we have against terrorist groups including the ETIM, against which Afghanistan has done more than any other country. We will continue that fight because we view the ETIM as the common foe of Afghanistan and China and the entire region,” he said.

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