By Amjad Khan Afridi
Taliban’s peace talks with Trump Administration’s special envoy Zalmai Khalilzad remained inconclusive in September 2019 when US President Donald Trump backed out in the wake of series of Kabul bombings the same months. Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings in Kabul that left many astonished as to what could be the possible motives behind such a violent move when US-Taliban peace talks were near to a conclusion. Observers and analysts of Afghan peace process were expecting a harsh condemnation from Taliban side, however, Taliban resorted to series of devious stratagems to achieve their objectives and started aggressive diplomatic maneuvers reaching out to various important capitals in the region. Taliban reached to Moscow, Tehran, Islamabad and indeed, Beijing. In China, Taliban vociferously pleaded their case and convinced Chinese authorities to speak to Washington for resumption of peace talks. Beijing responded positively but decided to dice herself and put its heavy weight behind for balancing the Afghan peace process. Beijing’s move left Washington skeptical and Kabul fuming. China in October 2019, formally informed all stakeholders that it intends to invite all concerned to Beijing for discussing Afghan peace process. China shares 76-km (47-mile) border with the extreme northeastern tip of Afghanistan.
Some peculiar aspects of the proposed Beijing Peace conference were also noted with surprise by many analysts. In the first place, participants from Afghan side in the conference would be there in personal capacity. There will be no representation of key Afghan government office holders in the talks to be held in Beijing. Taliban, however, allowed presence of lower-level Afghan government officials as was stated in October 2019 by Suhail Shaheen, a key Taliban spokesperson. Secondly, the proposed Beijing conference would be separate from the already in-process US-backed peace efforts with Taliban and at Intra-Afghan Peace and Recon level. Thirdly, till recently, other countries including Russia and Pakistan had hosted Afghan peace talks, however, their role mainly was more of a facilitator. China’s efforts in this regards are likely to be more dedicated, focused and with a dynamic push beyond mere facilitation and the one translated into real solutions of Afghan problem.
China has been seen by the Taliban as a guarantor as the country is an emerging economic power with a clout to take along the Afghan peace process to an eventual peace deal. Afghan government on the other hand too holds Beijing in profound respect and views it as a neutral player in the complex conflict that involves stakeholders with conflicting interests.
Key players like Pakistan and Russia had also given their green signals to Beijing to go ahead with next Intra-Afghan Peace Talks in QCG (Quadrilateral Coordination Group) meeting in Moscow on 25 October 2019. Pakistan’s proactive role under the leadership of Pakistani PM Imran Khan in Afghan peace process is a fresh air given the trail of repeatedly broken peace talks, complex nature of the Afghan problem and the reservations often expressed by concerned stakeholders. China sees towards Pakistan on Afghan problem as without Pakistan, Beijing’s efforts towards resolving Afghan problem would be having little steam to push it forward.
Amjad Khan Afridi is a writer, blogger and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.