Taliban leaders | Photo: AP
Kabul [Afghanistan]: With the messy withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban regime is looking to China for major investments in the coming six months in the troubled country, according to media reports.
Earlier last week, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid expressed that the group "desires" to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Citing the sources, Nikkei Asia reported that China has been courting the Taliban since 2018 on possible projects in Afghanistan.
"There are verbal agreements between Beijing and Taliban about investments," Nikkei Asia quoted the sources as saying. The sources added, "Once the Taliban government gains global recognition, China will start building infrastructure projects in war-torn Afghanistan."
On Wednesday, a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbours -- China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan -- was hosted by Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
During the meeting, China promised emergency aid of USD 31 million to Afghanistan, including grain, winter supplies, vaccines and medicines. "What China can do now is maintain necessary contacts with the Taliban in the fields of normal economic activities and people-to-people exchanges," reported Chinese state media.
Andrew Small, a senior trans-Atlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, believes the Taliban's immediate investment requests give China leverage. "Beijing will be happy to dangle promises and engage in talks on the BRI and CPEC extensions, but will not move ahead with anything on the ground until they are confident of political and security conditions," Small told Nikkei Asia.
CPEC is a part of China's most ambitious project 'Belt and Road Initiative', aimed at renewing the country's historic trade routes in the coastal countries of south-east Asia. In 2015, China announced the 'China Pakistan Economic Corridor' (CPEC) project which is worth USD 46 billion.
With CPEC, Beijing aims to expand its influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia in order to counter the influence of the United States.
The CPEC would link Pakistan's southern Gwadar port (626 kilometers west of Karachi) in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China's western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail, and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East.