China pursues bigger role in Afghanistan

Featured - June 4th, 2012
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China is preparing for a role beyond that as Afghanistan’s economic partner as Western forces withdraw out of the country to pave the way for a handover to local authorities.

The two countries are hoping to sign agreements, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Beijing, that will deepen their relationship. The agreements are likely to include security cooperation and training for security forces, according to Andrew Small, an expert on China at the European Marshall Fund.

China has pursued an economic agenda in lieu of military intervention, establishing close ties with the country despite international perceptions of widespread terrorist activity. Janan Musazai, the Afghan foreign ministry spokesman, told Reuters, in a short statement, that the agreement “is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level.”

Zhang Li, an expert on Sino-Afghan ties, points out that China will hope to exert greater influence over Afghanistan but will remain low-key. China, having close ties with India and Pakistan, will tread carefully to secure its interests in Afghanistan. It also engaged Pakistan and Afghanistan in a trilateral dialogue to reconcile with the Taliban.

NATO is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan but assures the country that it will not “rush” its exits. Afghanistan has signed strategic partnership agreements with other countries as well, including the US, India, Britain, Pakistan and Russia.