Karzai and Hu Jintao discuss energy and Islamic extremism
Nothing has been forthcoming for now as to the content of the talks, but the deals signed should cover economic and technological cooperation as well as favourable tariffs for Afghan exports to China.
Hu said that Karzai’s “visit will definitely help promote practical cooperation between China and Afghanistan, and take our comprehensive and cooperative partnership to a new level”. The Chinese president called for closer cooperation between the two countries in a number of sectors, like mining, agriculture, hydroelectric power and infrastructure. For his part, Karzai asked China for its support in building peace in his country.
Security is the other major issue of interest to China in relation to Afghanistan. Foreign ministry sources in Beijing said last week that the People’s Republic of China was going to continue its reconstruction work in Afghanistan in key areas like schools and hospitals and thus encourage a return to normal life.
Equally important, hungry for natural resource and energy, China is developing gas fields in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan’s neighbour. In December, a gas pipeline linking western China to Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan was inaugurated not far from the Afghan border.
In 2007, state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp won a bid to develop one of the world’s largest unexploited copper reserves at Aynak in Afghanistan’s Logar province, south of Kabul. The US$ 3 billion project is the largest single foreign investment in the country.
China also wants a negotiated solution to the Afghan war that would include the Taliban as a way to achieve stability and peace. For this reason, to find a resolution to the conflict it has focused on the United Nations Security Council, of which it is a permanent member, and on its close ties with key regional players like Pakistan and Russia.
With close ties to Kabul, Moscow and Islamabad, China can control the situation in Afghanistan, a key player in terms of energy (for its reserves and a transit for the region’s gas and oil) and a base for Islamic extremism (with a great potential to destabilise China’s Xinjiang province, home to a large Muslim population).