China eyes BRI extension to Afghanistan

China eyes BRI extension to Afghanistan

Beijing: China on Friday expressed hope to extend its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into Afghanistan, saying the Taliban believes that the initiative is good for development and prosperity in the war-ravaged country and the broader region.

China in the recent past has outlined plans to extend its USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under its tripartite diplomatic initiative, incorporating the three countries.

The plan has not made much headway due to political differences between the previous Ashraf Ghani-led government in Kabul and Pakistan over Islamabad’s support to the Taliban militants.

The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

India has been severely critical of the BRI as the CPEC, which is a part of it, passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan and the complete withdrawal of the US troops, China appears to be chalking out plans to extend its BRI to Afghanistan besides investments to exploit the rich minerals and highly lucrative rare-earth mines in Afghanistan.

Rare-earth metals, which are key components for a host of advanced technologies like IPhones and hi-tech missile guidance systems, were estimated to be worth anywhere between one trillion to three trillion USD in 2020 in Afghanistan, according to evaluations by the previous Afghan government.

China-Afghan cooperation on BRI has delivered tangible benefits, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here on Friday, answering a question whether Beijing will extend the BRI projects into Afghanistan.

“We also notice that the Afghan Taliban said it will provide a good environment for foreign investors. The Afghan Taliban believes that the BRI is good for development and prosperity in Afghanistan and the broader region,” Wang said.

“We hope the Afghanistan situation can achieve a smooth transition and lasting peace. This is the foundation for cooperation looking ahead,” he said, adding that the Taliban hopes to participate and support the initiative.

Wang declined to comment directly on the intense fighting between the Taliban and the militias of the National Resistance Front (NRF) lead by Ahmad Massoud, whose slain father was known as the “Lion of Panjshir”. PTI


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