China might be interested in seeing stability in Afghanistan, South Asia

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Source: AP) Related News

China might be interested in stability in Afghanistan and South Asia as it is building an ambitious infrastructure network in the region, a senior Trump administration official has said after Beijing backed Pakistan when the US president sternly warned it against providing safe havens to terrorists. Donald Trump, who announced his Afghanistan and South Asia policy on Tuesday, slammed Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.

“I think we see China is interested in seeing stability in this region. They have their One Belt and One Road (OBOR)project that they are seeking to build. So, they are looking for stability in the region,” a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call. The OBOR initiative, a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, aims to link the economic circles in East Asia and Europe, connecting China – on land and over water – to partners in Asia, Europe and Africa. The initiative, known as the revival of the ancient Silk Road trading route, would link Asian markets with economic groups in Europe. “And so the US will be looking for ways to work with China on our mutual goals of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the official said responding to a question on China’s role in bringing peace and stability in the region and given its proximity to Pakistan.

After Trump announced his Afghan and South Asia Strategy,the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, during which the latter urged him to value Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. “We must value Pakistan’s important role on the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and reasonable security concerns,” Yang told Tillerson according to a Chinese statement. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is expected to visit China before his trip to Washington to meet Tillerson here.

Notably, China is the only country that has come out in support of Pakistan after Trump’s strong statement against Islamabad in which he accused it of supporting terrorists and presence of safe havens in the country. The senior administration official said that China will not be the only country that the US is working with, but certainly they are going be one of the important ones. “And I do want to stress, that too often when we talk about the new strategy, people get caught up in how many troops. But when I stress the diplomatic element of this strategy and that should think about this as also a diplomatic, a surge in our regional diplomacy.” “Our diplomats will be more actively engaged with the region and with the other powers that have an interest in Afghanistan and to build support and to the extent for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” the official said.

The six plus one format, which includes India and China,has been revived and is moving forward. The quadrilateral coordination group, that includes the US, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan. There are many different regional efforts that are likely to happen and move forward,the official said.

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