US Secretary of State said on Thursday that China increasing interest in Afghanistan could be “a positive thing”, in a rare statement that may suggest the US is giving a green light for a more prominent involvement by Beijing post-US withdrawal.
Mr Blinken said he would welcome China’s role if it was looking towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict and a “truly representative and inclusive” government.
He was speaking while on a visit to India, in which it is thought he is trying to pull Delhi closer to Washington at a time of regional uncertainty in the wake of the US-led troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. More than 90 per cent of the forces have already left the country after twenty years of fighting the Taliban.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted nine Taliban officials on Wednesday, led by the group’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, where he called the Taliban a “pivotal force” in Afghanistan. He promised China would support a bigger role for the group in reconstructing the country.
Earlier this month, the Taliban’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen described China as a “friend” and said they are looking forward to discussing stepping up Chinese investment in the rebuilding process “as soon as possible.”
“No one has an interest in a military takeover of the country by the Taliban, the restoration of an Islamic emirate,” Mr Blinken said.
He urged the Taliban to come to the “negotiating table... peacefully”.
In the past few weeks, China had concerns over the Taliban swift military advances, which saw the insurgents extending their control over vast swathes of Afghan territories. The group claims it now controls up to 90 per cent of Afghanistan, a statement the government in Kabul branded as a propaganda stunt.
Beijing since has tried to blame the “hasty” US for the escalated violence as tensions between the two sides continue to rise over a wide range of issues.
“The hasty withdrawal of the United States and Nato troops from Afghanistan actually marked the failure of the US policy towards Afghanistan, and the Afghan people have an important opportunity to stabilise and develop their own country,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
China may have conferred an additional layer of legitimacy upon the militant group by hosting a Taliban delegation. But it also signalled warmer relations and Beijing’s eagerness to take a step ahead of other regional powers, including India, to bolster the Taliban position in Afghanistan.
“China’s hosting of a Taliban delegation... underscores the challenges for India as it seeks to step up its diplomatic game re Afghanistan. One core Indian rival, Pakistan, is already a major player in this story and now its other core rival, China, is getting more involved,” Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at The Wilson Center, said on Twitter.
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