China had urged Taliban to cut its ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement which is blamed by Beijing for terror activities and fueling separatism in its Xinjiang region.
Chinese State councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi said this on Wednesday during talks with a nine-member delegation led by the Taliban’s chief negotiator and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the northern city of Tianjin, around 120 km from capital Beijing. This is the first time a senior Taliban leader has visited China since the group launched an offensive to capture territories across Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the rapid withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang told the Taliban delegation that China hopes the insurgent group will play a critical role in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan in the backdrop of US forces leaving the country. On his part, Baradar said the Taliban is willing to establish an inclusive political structure in Afghanistan, which protects human rights as well as the rights and interests of women and children. He said that China has always been a good friend of the Afghan people and appreciates China’s active role in the process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Observers say, both China and Taliban are seeking each other’s support for pragmatic reasons despite very little in common ideologically. China is worried about unrest in its western Xinjiang province and wants to minimize the effect of ETIM with the help of Taliban while Taliban wants to gather China’s support for its aspirations to gain legitimacy and capture power in Kabul. China has also been recently seeking Pakistan’s help to exert influence on Taliban in an effort to get their support to cut ETIM in the region but is also trying to balance its ties with the current Afghan regime which is in deep struggle with Taliban offensive. West has been accusing China of human rights abuses against Muslim minorities especially the Uighurs in Xinjiang, but it was not clear whether this was discussed during Wednesday’s talks between Taliban and China.
“The Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction there,” Wang said, according to a foreign ministry statement. On the issue of ETIM, Wang said he hoped the Taliban would crack down on them as it was a “direct threat to China’s national security”, according to the readout. The impact and the aftermath of the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-ravaged country, the peace process and security issues were discussed during the meeting.
Earlier this month, Wang Yi has said, China is ready to facilitate inter-Afghan negotiations in China at any time and contribute to the political settlement of the Afghan issue. China had hosted a low-profile meeting with a Taliban delegation in 2019, which met Deng Xijun, then the special envoy for Afghanistan. Back-channel links with the group stretch back to the early 1990s through Pakistan, Beijing’s “iron brother”. China says ETIM is active in the northwestern frontier province of Xinjiang, which has a border of about 70km with Afghanistan, and is triggering unrest in the remote region.
Baradar added that the Taliban hoped that China would be more involved in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process and play a bigger role in the country’s future reconstruction and economic development. He said the Afghan Taliban would make its own efforts in creating a favorable investment environment. “Politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan, and the peace process were discussed in the meetings,” media reports quoting Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem said. Naeem added that the group was also meeting China’s special envoy for Afghanistan and that the trip took place after an invitation from the Chinese authorities. “Delegation assured China that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China,” Naeem said. “China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and ensure restoration of peace in the country.”