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Afghanistan sees China as buffer against terror

China’s increasing investments and involvement in war-torn Afghanistan could provide an insurance cover against acts of terrorism reportedly sponsored by Pakistan in the troubled country. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Feb 28, 2012 02:11 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

China’s increasing investments and involvement in war-torn Afghanistan could provide an insurance cover against acts of terrorism reportedly sponsored by Pakistan in the troubled country.

Beijing has emerged as the largest investor in Afghanistan with deals signed in the mining and oil and gas sector that could pump in billions of dollars in investment and provide employment to thousands across the country, a senior Afghan diplomat told HT.

The Chinese government-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) is pumping in more than 3.4 billion dollars in the Logar province to extract copper from a huge untapped reserve. It’s the first time that copper will be mined in Afghanistan and the mineral is expected to be channeled to feed China’s increasing demand for it.

Late last year, China National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) entered into a joint venture worth millions of dollars with an Afghan company to explore and extract oil in the Sar-e-pul area; it’s after decades that oil exploration is being resumed in Afghanistan.

But such projects could be still-born if state and non-state actors continue to carry out attacks. Given Beijing’s close, cozy relations with Islamabad, the Afghanistan government is hoping that the militants allegedly affiliated to Pakistan will think twice before targeting these high-profile projects.

“China’s involvement (in Afghanistan) should convince Pakistan not to destabilise Afghanistan,” the diplomat said. China, he added, would also want to protect its own economic interests in the region and the Afghan government is hoping that it will act as a natural deterrent against destabilising elements operating from across the border. Kabul has frequently blamed Islamabad for fomenting unrest.

Besides investment, according to the diplomat, China has given around 300 million dollars as aid to Kabul. “Beijing is also involved in railway construction, in improving agriculture and irrigation projects. It also set up an institute in Kabul to teach Chinese four years ago. More than 30 students of the first graduating batch are currently in China to finish the course,” he said.

Beijing, the diplomat added, is also increasingly involved in discussions about the war-torn country’s future. “China is participating more actively now (in talks now),” he said. In fact, in November 2010 Beijing was closely involved in the talks hosted in Istanbul between Pakistan and Afghanistan; foreign ministers India, China and Russia were among those present at the talks.

It’s this increase in China’s interests in Afghanistan that Kabul feels could work in its favour – not only in economic terms but also in creating the right security atmosphere crucial to protect those same economic interests.