China, Afghanistan, Pakistan agree to maintain regional peace, stability

Irshad Salim — China has brokered a deal between Pakistan and Afghanistan for the establishment of a bilateral “crisis management mechanism” to avoid any breakdown in mutual communications and contacts in the event of terrorist attacks on both sides of their long shared border.

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, and Pakistan’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, left, leave after a press conference in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Sunday, June 25, 2017. China’s foreign minister says Beijing will hold a dialogue with Afghanistan and Pakistan to help improve relations between the two South Asian neighbors. 

Beijing’s diplomatic efforts came as relations between the two uneasy neighbors have deteriorated in the past two years over mutual allegations of sponsoring terrorist attacks on each other’s soil.

Afghanistan and Pakistan also accuse each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border. Pakistan’s construction of a fence along part of the porous frontier has also caused tensions, as Afghanistan says it does not recognize the colonial-era line as an international border.

Last month Afghan President Ghani’s requested China on the sidelines of the SCO Summit to mediate on government-to-government level with Afghanistan. China agreed to mediate.

According to observers, China considers stability in Afghanistan vital to its national security and economic interests. It is worried that continued Afghan insecurity could threaten security of its western Xinjiang province — home to a large Chinese Muslim population, and shares border with the war-hit nation.

Beijing is also investing billions of dollars in Pakistan, China’s staunch ally, to establish a trade route to gain access to international markets through the Pakistani port of Gwadar in restive Balochistan on the Arabian Sea.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said during his visit to Islamabad on Sunday that foreign ministers from the three countries would discuss stressed relations between the two neighbors with an emphasis on economic cooperation.

The three countries have agreed to set up a trilateral foreign minister-level dialogue forum that would allow Beijing to observe progress toward normalizing Kabul and Islamabad’s deeply mistrust-marred security ties and promoting economic cooperation between them.

The developments were formally announced at a joint press conference Sunday at the conclusion of a two-day mediation trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan by Yi.

According to the trilateral joint statement released on Sunday, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan are all committed to maintaining regional peace and stability, enhancing regional connectivity and economic cooperation and promoting shared security and development.

The joint press release by the three countries said that both Pakistan and Afghanistan “are willing to improve relations with each other, strengthen political mutual trust, enhance cooperation in various fields including counter-terrorism, and jointly meet security challenges.”

According to the statement, Afghanistan and Pakistan has agreed to establish a crisis management mechanism, which will include prevention through timely and effective intelligence and information sharing and other mutually agreed measures. “This would enable the two sides to maintain timely and effective communications in case of emergencies, including terrorist attacks,” it said.

The three parties also agreed to establish the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ dialogue mechanism to cooperate on issues of mutual interest, beginning with economic cooperation, said the paper.

It added that “the three parties believe that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group should be revived to create an enabling environment for peace talks and for Taliban to join the peace talks.”

The statement said the three parties “support the Kabul process and hold the view that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Afghanistan Contact Group should be revived as early as possible to play a constructive role in moving forward the Afghan reconciliation process.”

Ahead of his departure from Islamabad, the Chinese foreign minister told a press briefing that his shuttle diplomacy was aimed at mediating between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and help the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Wang stressed that China never interferes in other’s internal affairs, never imposes its will on others, nor does it get involved in geopolitical competitions, but China is willing to lend a hand when friends are in need, adding that he had candid and in-depth talks with Afghan and Pakistani leaders and they reached broad consensus.

The Chinese foreign minister said that both Afghanistan and Pakistan had signaled good will to each other as they agreed to establish a crisis management mechanism, which is an important step forward to improve bilateral ties, noting that the next step is to find an effective way to operate the mechanism by the two sides.

Wang said that China is willing to play a constructive role within its capacity to help Afghanistan and Pakistan in improving their relations. Both countries relationship is critical to regional peace — a view that is held by not only China but by the US, Iran, Turkey and others also.

China on Thursday asked the international community to acknowledge and support the counter-terrorism efforts made by Pakistan on the basis of respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Pakistan is on the forefront of the global fight against terrorism. It has been firmly opposing terrorism and has made important sacrifices and contributions to the fight against terrorism and maintaining regional security and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Gen Shuang said during his weekly press briefing in Beijing.

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