China seeks assurances in Afghan case

This is the latest stage in the diplomatic marathon started in recent months by the Taliban, whose troops are now clashing with Afghan security forces across the whole of Afghanistan: a delegation of nine Taliban officials landed in Beijing on July 27 to meet with several Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during a two-day visit.

The specter of Islamic terrorism

In Russia at the beginning of July, in Turkmenistan a few days later, in Beijing this time, the message is the same: “The Islamic Emirate has assured China that Afghan territory will not be used to undermine the security of any country whatsoever,” Muhammad Naeem, spokesperson for the Taliban Politburo, wrote on Twitter on July 28.

For the Taliban in constant search of international recognition, the very holding of the meeting is already a diplomatic success. The game is more complex for China, which has only a short border with Afghanistan – 75 km of arduous mountain at the end of the Wakhan corridor – but observes with anxiety the rise in violence precipitated by the departure of the country. of the Western coalition.

First of all, for Beijing, there is the obvious, professed by Wang Yi during his meeting with the Taliban delegation: “The Taliban must draw a clear line between themselves and terrorist organizations like the Islamic Movement in East Turkestan”, thus assailed the minister, in reference to the terrorist group, originating in a Uyghur region of Xinjiang bordering Afghanistan, accused by Beijing of having perpetrated attacks in China. Like the United States and Russia, China fears that the country will turn into a haven for Islamist terrorist groups.

“China has its back”

“But beyond that, Beijing fears chaos in Afghanistan which would result in instability in the whole region, in Pakistan, in Central Asia”, notes Raffaello Pantucci, specialist in terrorism issues and expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “It’s one thing to have an unstable neighbor at the end of a narrow corridor, it’s quite another if it extends to the whole of Central Asia”, he adds.

→ READ. In Kabul, the Afghan government holds out despite the Taliban offensive

While the fall of the Kabul government is more and more openly mentioned in the face of repeated Taliban assaults, the fundamentalist group has become an essential interlocutor for Beijing. The country has also forged close economic ties with Pakistan, which continues to support the Taliban, according to observers.

However, there is no question of betting everything on an organization that China continues to be wary of: Xi Jinping thus spoke on July 16 with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, assuring Kabul that “China strongly supports the efforts of the Afghan government to safeguard the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country”, according to a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In recent years, the country has also strengthened its security cooperation with several Central Asian countries – notably with Tajikistan, which borders both Afghanistan and China. “Beijing is backing up by talking to everyone”, explains Raffaello Pantucci. However, assures the researcher, “China does not want to be the country that everyone is looking for a solution, like the Americans were”.

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