ISLAMABAD: China on Saturday began its efforts to normalise relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and encourage cooperation between the two countries for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached Islamabad in the evening after visiting Kabul during the day where he held talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and National Security Adviser Haneef Atmar.
The Chinese minister, who was received at the airport by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, started his visit with talks at the Foreign Office with Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.
According to sources, the discussions centred around the situation in Afghanistan and the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been on a steep downslide due to differences over the strategy to fight terrorism.
China, the sources said, was proposing a trilateral mechanism for cooperation for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and coordination of counterterrorism actions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
An announcement in this regard is expected on Sunday.
Mr Wang’s visit is a follow-up to the discussions the Chinese leadership had with Pakistani and Afghan leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit earlier this month on counterterrorism cooperation and revival of the Afghan peace process.
The Chinese minister will also meet Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa.
China has lately got increasingly involved in Afghanistan. Besides its bilateral engagement with both Islamabad and Kabul, it is part of a number of international processes on Afghanistan.
Beijing’s interest in Afghanistan is out of its security concerns related to presence of Uighur militants in Badakhshan province. Moreover, China’s regional engagement is driven by its economic investment in Afghanistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
For Beijing, peace and stability in Afghanistan is critical for both its own security and investments in Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2017