Will Chinese-Afghan cooperation put the Taliban on the path to international recognition?
The results of the UN talks that took place in the Qatari capital, Doha, at the beginning of May did not shock the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, some of whose leaders hoped to obtain recognition of the movement’s government, as it came as a disappointment to the movement, which is looking for alternatives to this recognition, including making deals and contacts with world countries to compensate for the effects of the lack of international recognition, especially the entry into partnership with some countries, including China, which recently stepped up the rates of cooperation with Afghanistan in a number of projects.
Belt and Road Initiative
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is an extension of the Silk Road that connects China with its regional and international surroundings. Its official name is the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Development Strategy, known as the Belt and Road Initiative since 2016, and the initiative has already started its moves in several South and Central Asian countries to participate in infrastructure projects.
On May 6, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang held tripartite talks with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi during his stay in Islamabad, in the presence of Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, during which they discussed some issues related to security and trade.
According to Afghan media, Muttaqi stressed that Afghanistan hopes to strengthen cooperation with China in infrastructure development within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign minister said that his country is ready to intensify security cooperation with Afghanistan in combating terrorism, indicating that Beijing is ready to actively support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and that the Taliban must fulfill its regional and international obligations. He added that it is also important for the Taliban to take the security concerns of its neighbors seriously and take stronger action to confront the armed groups inside Afghanistan.
The recent talks between China and the Taliban were not the first of their kind, as they were preceded by other measures that have already begun on the ground in January, after the Taliban signed their first international contract with China to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin in the north of the country, which took place in the presence of acting Taliban Minister of Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar.
The signing ceremony was attended by Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu and high-ranking Afghan officials, the Afghan Khaama Press News Agency reported at the time.
Khaama noted that the contract, which was signed by the Xinjiang Central Asia Oil and Gas Company (CAPEIC), aims to provide about 3,000 job opportunities for Afghans and to raise the oil extraction capacity from the Qashqari mine from 1,400 barrels to 7,100 barrels.
This is the first major deal to extract primary resources signed by the Taliban with an international company since the movement seized power of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Regarding these actions by the movement towards the international community, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Razek, an expert in Asian affairs, said in an exclusive statement to the Reference that the Taliban seeks to take advantage of any occasion that allows it to conduct any international relations, whether in economic or other aspects, in order to compensate for its non-recognition by the United Nations.
The Taliban government is already developing a set of alternatives to compensate for this matter, which ties its hand as a government of the country or a legitimate representative of the people, he said, adding that it may succeed in obtaining what it wants through these alternatives, but in the end it remains in dire need of recognition in order to move more broadly as the government of the country.
Razek pointed out that among those alternatives is calling on global powers, led by China and Russia, to invest in Afghanistan, thus benefiting from supporting the dilapidated Afghan economy and on the other hand easing the international isolation of Afghanistan and the movement.