China, Pakistan look to offload part of $57 bn CPEC on Afghanistan

27 Dec 2017


China and Pakistan are working on a new strategy of shifting some burden of China's `Belt-and-Road' programme off Pakistan by extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that Beijing will position itself as a beneficiary of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to push its ambitious Belt-and-Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

China's hopes of reaching out to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, however, have been marred by growing animosity between Pakistan and Afghanistan - both uneasy neighbours ever since Pakistan's independence in 1947.

Pakistan's support to Taliban insurgents fighting US-backed Afghan forces has further worsened the scenario and made it even more difficult for China to play any worthwhile role in Afghanistan.

While Pakistan says it wants to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan, it is doing everything possible to limit the influence of its traditional rival, India, in Afghanistan.

Speaking after the first trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wang said China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.

Afghanistan has urgent need to develop and improve people's lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives, Wang told reporters, as he announced that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to mend their strained relations.

''So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan,'' he added.

The plan is for the three countries to reach a gradual consensus, tackling easier, smaller projects first, Wang said, without giving details.

''The successful implementation of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) projects will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and with central and west Asia,'' he said.

India has objected to China building through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as an infringement on its sovereignty, but Wang said the plan had nothing to do with territorial disputes.

At the same time, China wants peace in the region as it fears the spread of Islamist militancy from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the unrest-prone far western Chinese region of Xinjiang.

However, China's efforts to bring the Islamists and other militant outfits to the negotiating table have met with little success.

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