Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, the other day, went on a one-day visit to China to discuss the issue of regional terrorism .
General Raheel held a meeting with Chinese Chief of Joint Staff General Fang Fenghui and Afghan Army Chief Shah Shaheen.
The meeting was also attended by Tajikistan’s first deputy defence minister. In the meeting, it was decided that members of quadrilateral alliance will share intelligence information for regional stability.
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the two leaders discussed military-to-military relations, bilateral security cooperation and all dimensions of long-term China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) security.
The long-term and multilateral security issues of the CPEC project were also came under discussion at the meeting.
Later, the army chief also held a separate meeting with Party Secretary Xinkiang province, Zhang Chun Xian in Urumqi. Pak-China bilateral relations and regional security issue with particular reference to the CPEC completion and security were discussed during the meeting.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan have joined a security alliance headed by China. Concerned about an Islamist insurgency in its Xinjiang region and Afghanistan, Beijing is seeking to increase regional cooperation.
Military leaders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan met with their Chinese counterparts in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region Wednesday to announce the formation of the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism alliance.
The four countries pledged to work together to counter terrorism and share intelligence.
“All parties reaffirmed they would cooperate to respond to these (terrorist) forces, and safeguard all member countries’ peace and stability,” the official Xinhua news agency said Thursday.
The Uighur problem
In the past few years, the Chinese government has acted strictly against the Muslim separatists in Xinjiang.
In 2014, the Chinese government blamed Xinjiang Islamists and separatists for a spate of violent attacks at transport hubs throughout China. Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to follow a “strike-first approach against terrorists in the region,” stating that long-term stability in the region was “vital to the whole country’s reform.”
Beijing is equally worried about the expansion of “Islamic State” (IS) in neighboring Afghanistan and a surge in violence in the war-torn country. It believes that the Taliban and other radical groups in Afghanistan are providing assistance to Xinjiang militants.
“China is worried about IS gaining a permanent foothold in Afghanistan, and establishing links to Uighur militants,” Wahid Mazhdah, a former employee of the ousted Taliban regime, told DW.
Uighur Muslims, a Turkic-speaking minority in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province, have long faced persecution by the country’s communist authorities. They are a distinct and mostly Sunni Muslim community and one of the 55 recognized ethnic minorities in China. However, Uighurs feel increasingly oppressed and view Beijing as a “colonizing power” attempting to undermine their cultural identity, political rights and religion and to exploit their region’s natural resources.
Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a Kabul University lecturer who recently met with a Taliban delegation in Qatar, has a similar view. “China wants to make sure Uighur militants do not have sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Beijing wants this issue to be part of the negotiations,” Zaland told DW.
Beijing assuming a bigger regional role
Experts say these are the reasons behind Beijing’s offer to support the Afghan government in reconciling with the Taliban. Media reports said a Taliban delegation had held talks with Chinese officials on two occasions in June.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last year in December that his country was seeking a leading role for Islamabad to resolve conflicts in Afghanistan, pointing out that “Pakistan is an important nation for Afghanistan” and “has a special reach there.”
“Broad-based and inclusive national reconciliation” was necessary to ensure Afghanistan’s durable stability, Yi commented, and the country would need international support in the process.
China and Pakistan are close allies, and with the Islamic country’s frayed ties with Washington, Beijing is exerting its influence on Pakistani authorities.
“Obviously, the Chinese want to challenge the American hegemony in the region and this looks like their stamp of authority on some sensitive matters,” Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general and security expert, told the DPA news agency.
Experts say that another important reason behind the diplomatic push may be China’s level of economic engagement in these two countries. For instance, China signed deals worth $46 billion (41.3 billion euros) with Pakistan last year. President Xi Jinping also inaugurated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor designed to create a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China’s restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
According to Afghan experts, Chinese officials are striving to keep the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan under control so Beijing can implement its economic projects and protect its investments.
“China’s primary goal for its increased involvement in the Afghan peace process is to secure its economic interests in the region,” analyst Zaland said.
Sutitho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and his Chinese counterpart, General Fang Fenghui (in picture) took part in the dialogue. (Reuters file )
China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan issued a joint statement on counter-terrorism at the end of a military dialogue in Urumqi, the capital city of the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
According to China’s defence ministry, the four parties agreed that terrorism and extremism pose serious threats to regional stability, and fully recognised the unremitting efforts made by their militaries on fighting terrorist and extremist forces.
“The four parties agreed to establish the “quadrilateral mechanism” to coordinate with and support each other in a range of areas, including study and judgment of counter terrorism situation, confirmation of clues, intelligence sharing, anti-terrorist capability building, joint anti-terrorist training and personnel training, and that the coordination and cooperation will be exclusive to the four countries,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement added: “The four parties agreed that the “quadrilateral mechanism” should abide by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and other recognised principles and rules of international law, especially the principles of preserving international peace and security, maintaining independence and equality, mutual respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression and mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”
Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and his Chinese counterpart, General Fang Fenghui took part in the dialogue.
Delivering the keynote address, Fang said: “Currently, the three evil forces of terrorism, extremism and separatism are frequently creating disturbances, seriously affecting regional peace and stability.”
Fang said the purpose of establishing “quadrilateral mechanism” was to implement the important consensus reached by heads of state of the four countries, and to help construct a community of common destiny for Asia, maintain regional peace and stability and safeguard people’s welfare.
Fang said China and Pakistan were all-weather strategic partners and mutual support between their armed forces is critical for safeguarding regional peace and stability.
Sharif assured the Chinese military that he would crack down on ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ and protect the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.