Driven by its economic and security interests, China has displayed its eagerness to see stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, now reeling from violence and underdevelopment.
In this edition of RFE/RLive, two distinguished Western scholars assess Beijing’s role in improving the historically tense relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and its efforts to push for peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, which are expected to take place in the coming days.
New York University Professor Barnett Rubin and Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund Andrew Small also discussed China's security interests in the region, and the huge trade, infrastructure, and mineral extraction investments it has pledged.
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Rubin, who in recent years has advised the U.S. State Department on policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says recent developments point to the Afghan Taliban holding direct talks with the Afghan government in the near future, thanks to a nearly year-old Chinese diplomatic initiative that appears to have convinced Islamabad to support reconciliation with Kabul.
"Now if Pakistan succeeds--through military or police action or political action -- in reducing the scope of the [annual offensive carried out by the Taliban in the spring], then that will be a sign that it is very serious about a political settlement because it will be reducing the leverage of the Taliban," Rubin said.
Small, author of a new book about Beijing's close alliance with Islamabad, says Beijing's economic investments and political role in the two troubled nations is likely to increase.
“We are going to see China playing a much more expansive political and diplomatic role than it ever has in this region before," he said. "In the medium term we are going to see a level of Chinese economic involvement in the region that is in the many multiples of what it was before."
RFE/RL Gandhara website editor Abubakar Siddique moderated this discussion.