40 years on

Karzai hails Chi­nese role in Afghanistan

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU WEI [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

China im­pressed for­mer Afghan pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai when he first vis­ited the coun­try in 2002 — the friend­li­ness of the peo­ple, the depth of the cul­ture, and even the tra­di­tional Chi­nese cui­sine.

How­ever, as he con­tin­ued to visit China al­most ev­ery year since then, Karzai said he found him­self in­creas­ingly mar­veling at its achieve­ments in so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. “No so­ci­ety, no coun­try in his­tory has achieved so much in such a short time,” he said in Bei­jing last month.

Karzai, 61, was in the cap­i­tal af­ter at­tend­ing the Im­pe­rial Springs In­ter­na­tional Fo­rum, which was held in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, on Dec 10 and 11. Along with other for­eign rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the fo­rum, he met with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in Bei­jing.

He said vis­it­ing China over the years has given him lots of good mem­o­ries.

“When I vis­ited in 2002, China was al­ready tak­ing a huge leap for­ward in devel­op­ment. It had al­ready achieved a great scale in devel­op­ment and progress,” he said, re­call­ing his first visit to China as pres­i­dent of the tran­si­tional govern­ment of Afghanistan at that time.

“I’ve seen how China is grow­ing each year, year by year. There is this im­mense devel­op­ment com­ing. When I first vis­ited, China was the third- or fourth-largest econ­omy in the world. Now, China is the sec­ond-largest econ­omy in the world.”

The coun­try’s suc­cess in lift­ing 700 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty over the past 40 years was im­pres­sive, he said.

“That’s some­thing that not only in­di­vid­u­als like my­self are im­pressed by, but mil­lions of peo­ple are im­pressed by all over the world,” Karzai said. “China, in the course of less than 40 years, has ac­tu­ally brought hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple within China from poverty not only to a bet­ter life, but pros­per­ity and mas­sive eco­nomic well-be­ing.”

The coun­try’s boom­ing in­fra­struc­ture drive is an­other achieve­ment that has im­pressed him.

“Thou­sands and thou­sands of kilo­me­ters of roads, of rail­way lines and high-speed trains. Now, China is the coun­try with the largest high-speed rail­way net­work in the world. So these are mas­sive achieve­ments — highly com­mend­able and ad­mirable,” he said.

Karzai is also im­pressed with the ef­fi­ciency in China’s gov­er­nance sys­tem, its eco­nomic en­deav­ors, as well as the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise of its econ­omy. He has a keen in­ter­est in Chi­nese cul­ture, and has been highly im­pressed by the depth of Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion.

“I was in­tro­duced to Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture and po­etry four years ago, and I have kept read­ing it,” he said. “It’s very beau­ti­ful.

“You have put to­gether your grand old civ­i­liza­tion with the best of moder­nity and achieve­ment in the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise of to­day.”

Karzai has been to more than 10 Chi­nese cities, and has vis­ited tourist at­trac­tions such as Ji­uzhaigou and Du­jiangyan in south­west­ern China’s Sichuan prov­ince. He added that the coun­try of­fers a unique com­bi­na­tion of mod­ern and his­toric el­e­ments.

His first visit to China in 2002 was the first by an Afghan head of state since 1964.

In June, when Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping met with Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani dur­ing the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion sum­mit in Qing­dao, Shan­dong prov­ince, Xi said China would con­tinue to pro­vide as­sis­tance within its ca­pac­ity to boost Afghanistan’s eco­nomic and so­cial devel­op­ment, and also sup­port its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

The two sides should en­hance their an­titer­ror­ism and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion, and China would con­tinue to firmly sup­port the Afghan govern­ment’s ef­forts in safe­guard­ing peace in the coun­try, Xi said, ad­ding that the key to re­al­iz­ing Afghanistan’s po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and last­ing peace lies in stick­ing to an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” po­lit­i­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process.

Karzai echoed Xi’s opin­ion, say­ing China has been a stead­fast friend and a very good neigh­bor to the Cen­tral Asian na­tion.

“China has con­trib­uted to Afghanistan’s well-be­ing and sta­bil­ity, giv­ing us eco­nomic as­sis­tance,” he said. “We value very highly the decades of Afghan-China re­la­tion­ship, and es­pe­cially China’s con­tri­bu­tions in Afghanistan in the past 18 years, which have been very sig­nif­i­cant.”

Karzai added that Afghanistan sees China as hav­ing an ex­tremely im­por­tant role in peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the coun­try as China has all three el­e­ments re­quired for this role.

“China is a neigh­bor. China is a friend of both Afghanistan and Pak­istan. China is a ma­jor world power,” he said, ad­ding that China has the ca­pac­ity, means, and con­nec­tions to con­trib­ute to Afghan peace and sta­bil­ity.

Karzai said he be­lieved the tri­lat­eral di­a­logue mech­a­nism be­tween China, Afghanistan and Pak­istan will play an im­por­tant role in eas­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan, im­prov­ing re­la­tions be­tween Afghanistan and Pak­istan and pro­mot­ing re­gional peace by con­trol­ling ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism.

The Afghan side wel­comed the tri­lat­eral mech­a­nism and ap­pre­ci­ated the Chi­nese govern­ment’s ef­forts to make it work.

“Since there is now a new effort by the United States to bring peace to Afghanistan, we hope that the US will seek China’s as­sis­tance in this and work to­gether with China, our other big neigh­bors, and ma­jor power Rus­sia,” he said. “So, the three join­ing hands will surely make con­tri­bu­tions to Afghan peace and sta­bil­ity.”

Karzai also spoke highly of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive pro­posed by Xi. Afghanistan was one of the ear­li­est coun­tries to sup­port the ini­tia­tive.

Chi­nese busi­nesses have been in­volved in the min­ing and the oil and gas sec­tors in Afghanistan. In 2008, a con­sor­tium launched by China Me­tal­lur­gi­cal Group and Jiangxi Cop­per won the con­tract to re­cover re­sources from the Mes Ay­nak cop­per mine in Afghanistan, which Afghan au­thor­i­ties said con­tains the world’s sec­ond-largest cop­per de­posit.

China was Afghanistan’s largest source of for­eign in­vest­ment and its third-largest trad­ing part­ner, Xinhua News Agency re­ported in May 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to data from China’s Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms, China’s trade vol­ume with Afghanistan reached $1.09 bil­lion in 2016, up by 16.5 per­cent year-on-year.

“The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is an ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant project not only for China and China’s eco­nomic rise and ex­pan­sion, but also for Afghanistan and the re­gion, be­cause this means con­nec­tiv­ity for all of us,” Karzai said.

Afghanistan wel­comes China’s in­vest­ment in Afghanistan, and the coun­try is seek­ing more Chi­nese in­volve­ment in the Afghan econ­omy, he said.

Karzai also wel­comed Xi’s pro­posal to build a com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture for mankind, say­ing that it is a “tremen­dously good vi­sion”.

“That’s a vi­sion that we all need, and that mankind needs,” he said. “And surely China will find peo­ple in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity all around the world, in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­eties and govern­ments, work­ing to­gether with it and help­ing achieve this goal.”

Karzai also said that Afghanistan can learn from China’s devel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence as its eco­nomic growth has been phe­nom­e­nal, and the Afghan govern­ment must make rea­son­able poli­cies to bring ben­e­fits to its peo­ple.

He said it is im­por­tant for Afghanistan to find a devel­op­ment path that suits its con­di­tions in or­der to achieve na­tional devel­op­ment.

XU JINGXING / CHINA DAILY

Afghan pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai is wel­comed by chil­dren at a cer­e­mony held in Bei­jing on Sept 27, 2013.

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