Syed Fawad Ali Shah
Chinese officials are in successful talks with the Taliban government in Afghanistan to establish their hold in the region in which Pakistan is playing the role of a bridge. China wants to expand its development network in Afghanistan, but without Pakistan it will not achieve this target. Projects in the areas of Infrastructure development, health, capacity building and science and technology are under consideration. There is news that new Afghan Taliban police force will be trained at Pakistani police training colleges but Hangu and RTW Kohat facilities only seem to be the viable solution due to language barrier. Taliban sources say they also intend to grant visa-free entry to citizens of their brotherly country Pakistan and friendly countries like China, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Russia. This will enhance cooperation and will lead to rapid development in Afghanistan with the help of these countries. Taliban are also considering to abolish nationalities of Afghans seeking political asylum in the United States, Canada, UK and European countries. Their stance is that if a person cannot be patriotic with his homeland, he has no right to enter Afghanistan. Taliban sources say that Afghans who leave Afghanistan will not be allowed to return to the country even if they do not work against Afghanistan after receiving training from foreign countries and consultations in this connection are taking place. The Taliban want to make progress in Afghanistan through their Chinese friends and have ignored the Indians. It is also learned that educated people or those with basic engineering skills will be trained to fly by a friendly neighbouring country, however private flying clubs will be engaged in this activity. Retired PAF employees have been offered jobs in Afghanistan and Pakistan is ready to facilitate for technology transfer. Now it is envisioned that if the Taliban pursues policies like Malaysia, Dubai, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan will move on the path of development and will be part of China’s OBOR. Having said that we must consider that after the collapse of the Afghan security forces the regional actors will engage the Taliban, shifting from proxy support to open political relations with the group which is in the offing. These interactions will be transactional exchanges, as states like Iran and Pakistan will secure their borders and security interests. Countries such as Russia, China, and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours will advance their economic interests and try to limit refugee flow. Taliban policies have undergone strategic shift from fighting to development side but the world must consider the upcoming humanitarian crisis. Chinese officials mostly use Xinjiang Muslims to negotiate with the Taliban, who deal with the Taliban in Islamic ways because China knows that the Afghan Taliban are annoyed with China over the way the deal with the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Chinese are trying to convince the Taliban that all reports of persecution of Uyghur Muslims are false and that they promotes these Muslims everywhere. If China and Russia continue to cooperate with the Afghan Taliban, they will be able to establish their footprint in Afghanistan rather in the region. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid recently told an Italian newspaper that the group will rely primarily on financing from China following its takeover of the country amid fears of an economic collapse and widespread hunger. Following the chaotic departure of foreign troops from Kabul airport in recent weeks, Western states have severely restricted their aid payments to Afghanistan providing an excellent opportunity to China. “China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country,” the Taliban spokesperson was quoted as saying in the interview. He said the New Silk Road – an infrastructure initiative with which China wants to increase its global influence by opening up trade routes – was held in high regard by the Taliban. There are “rich copper mines in the country which can be put back into operation and modernized. In present scenario, Afghanistan desperately needs money, and the Taliban is unlikely to get swift access to the roughly $10bn in assets here mostly held abroad by the Afghan central bank. Blocking Afghan funds held abroad can aggravate a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan which is indeed a wake-up call for the United States and other Western countries.