According to the Taliban, China has played a constructive role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and is welcome to contribute to the rebuilding of the country. The terrorist-turned-ruling organisation’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Chinese state media as much.
Taliban’s terrorists seized control over the weekend in an upheaval that sent thousands of civilians and Afghan military allies fleeing for safety. Many fear a return to the strict interpretation of Islamic law imposed during the previous Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago.
“China is a big country with a huge economy and capacity. I think they can play a very big role in the rebuilding, rehabilitation, reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Shaheen said in an interview late on 19 August.
During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s meeting with a Taliban delegation in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin last month, he said he hoped Afghanistan could adopt a moderate Islamist policy.
China has cited religious extremism as a destabilising force in its western Xinjiang region and has long worried that Taliban-controlled territory would be used to harbour separatist forces.
In dealing with the Taliban, an increasingly powerful China may be able to leverage the fact that, unlike Russia and the United States, it has not fought in Afghanistan. However, somewhere down the line, the hardcore Islamists will have to come to terms with the oppression of the human rights of Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China. Islam holds that all Muslims, regardless of the national boundaries that separate them, constitute one nation and, therefore, there will be voices within the Taliban that seek justice for the Uyghurs, say geopolitical commentators.
When the Taliban were last in power in the period 1996-2001, China had already suspended relations with Afghanistan, having pulled out its diplomats in 1993 following the outbreak of civil war.
“This is us being pragmatic. How you want to rule your country is largely your own business, just don’t let that affect China,” said Lin Minwang, a South Asia expert with Shanghai’s Fudan University.
The Chinese state media published at least two analytical stories this week highlighting that Afghanistan had been the “graveyard of empires” and cautioning China not to be mired in the “Great Game”, reinforcing a message that China harbours neither the intentions of sending troops into Afghanistan nor the illusion that it can fill the power vacuum left by the US.