China and US have rea­sons to co­op­er­ate in Afghanistan

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The first round of the four-party talks on Afghanistan held in Is­lam­abad onMon­day sawAfghanistan, Pak­istan, China and the United States dis­cussing a peace road map for the Afghan govern­ment and the Tal­iban. But why are China and the US co­op­er­at­ing to re­solve Afghanistan’s prob­lem?

The rea­sons are mul­ti­ple in­clud­ing the US global re­bal­anc­ing, the need for sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan and the re­gion for mu­tual in­ter­est, the Afghan govern­ment’s in­abil­ity to re­store peace in the coun­try and re­gion, and China’s grow­ing role in re­solv­ing in­ter­na­tional and re­gional is­sues.

First, the US global re­bal­anc­ing has led to the with­drawal of US com­bat troops from Afghanistan, which must be off­set by the ef­forts to keep peace of other pow­ers. US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s de­ci­sion to slow down the troop with­drawal through 2015 re­flects the im­por­tance he at­taches to the out­come of the US’ en­gage­ment in Afghanistan.

Se­cond, China and the US both have an in­ter­est in a peace­ful and self-sus­tain­ing Afghanistan. On the diplo­matic front, China, the US, and Afghanistan are al­ready en­gaged in tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. And peace be­tween the Tal­iban and the Afghan govern­ment can be es­tab­lished only af­ter restor­ing trust be­tween the Afghanistan and Pak­istan, some of whose ter­ri­tory has been used by Tal­iban in­sur­gents as a haven.

More­over, US pres­sure on Pak­istan has had lim­ited ef­fects and China could help re­shape the di­a­logue. As an “all weather friend” of Pak­istan, China is well po­si­tioned to play the role of con­struc­tive me­di­a­tor, es­pe­cially be­causeWash­ing­ton-Is­lam­abad re­la­tions have de­te­ri­o­rated over the years.

Third, Afghanistan needs a govern­ment that can build in­fra­struc­ture, cre­ate jobs, pro­vide education and health­care, and de­liver jus­tice to its peo­ple in or­der to es­tab­lish per­ma­nent peace. But the fis­cal and func­tional fail­ure has made it dif­fi­cult for the Afghan govern­ment to do so.

China and the US both have in­vested in de­vel­op­ment projects in Afghanistan, yet they have adopted dif­fer­ent ap­proaches for their aims. Of the $1.59-bil­lion as­sis­tance the US ex­tended to Afghanistan in the fis­cal year 2015, about 19 per­cent was ded­i­cated to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Four-fifths of the amount cov­ered peace, se­cu­rity, democ­racy, gov­er­nance, health­care and education is­sues, and so­cial ser­vices, which un­der­pin sus­tain­able, longterm growth. And China’s con­tri­bu­tion is tar­geted in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture and ex­trac­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources in Afghanistan.

Fourth, Afghanistan’s sta­bil­ity is es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of China’s Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt ini­tia­tive. And to sta­bi­lize the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and de­velop its econ­omy, China could seek the co­op­er­a­tion of the US. On the other hand, the US needs China’s co­op­er­a­tion to re­al­ize its goals. So the China-US co­op­er­a­tion to re­store peace in Afghanistan is not a zero-sum game.

From China’s per­spec­tive, the bor­der be­tween Afghanistan

The au­thor is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor ofHays in China. and its Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion means it will con­tinue to have a stake in its neigh­bor’s sta­bil­ity. Since the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt ini­tia­tive en­vi­sions pipe­lines, tele­com, and high-speed rail­way con­nect­ing China with Cen­tral Asia, theMid­dle East and Europe with Xin­jiang as the hub, China has to make ef­forts to en­sure that ter­ror­ists, sep­a­ratists and ex­trem­ists do not re­ceive train­ing in the lawless Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der re­gion and threaten its fu­ture projects.

In­vest­ment is cru­cial for eco­nomic growth and so­cial sta­bil­ity, and the China-led Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank can play a pos­i­tive role in this re­gard in Afghanistan. Also, newchan­nels of fi­nance such as the Silk Road Fund can boost in­vest­ment in Afghanistan.

China and the US have many rea­sons to co­op­er­ate in Afghanistan. Start­ing with in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ment, the two coun­tries can shelve their dif­fer­ences and fo­cus on Afghanistan’s de­vel­op­ment for mu­tual ben­e­fit. And this is pre­cisely where the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive can play a very con­struc­tive role.

More im­por­tantly, China-US co­op­er­a­tion can be ben­e­fi­cial not only to Afghanistan and the re­gion, but also other coun­tries and re­gions. It could have spill-over ef­fects in other fields, too, as it can bridge the trust gap be­tween Bei­jing andWash­ing­ton and help cre­ate a demon­stra­tive model for bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

The au­thor is a re­searcher at Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies, Ren­min Univer­sity of China.

MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY

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