Getting the Most Out of Pakistan

Monday, 15 January 2018 03:38 Written by

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration still might see some gain for its Afghanistan strategy by preserving an effective channel to maintain Pakistani cooperation on counterterrorism.

On January 14th, H.E Mr Liu Jinsong, the new Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, accepted our written interview. Ambassador Liu said he comes from Chinese Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where is next to Afghanistan. He knows and respects Afghan traditions and will try his best to promote the development of China-Afghan relations.

 Ambassador Liu said, he took the Ariana flight to Kabul from Urumuqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It took him only 3 hours which shows how close the two countries are. Last year, nearly 10,000 Afghans went to China. There were many Afghan people on the Ariana flight which indicates the increase of our people-to-people exchanges. Before going to University at the age of 17, Ambassador Liu lived in Urumqi with lots of Muslim friends and classmates around, so he is familiar and respects the Muslim traditions. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is adjacent to Afghanistan, many people on both sides are relatives, and many Afghan businessmen are doing business there. The Ambassador said Afghanistan had been known to him as China's good neighbor, good friend and good partner when he was very young.

 The Ambassador said, he arrived in Kabul on 3rd,January and was arranged to present his credence to H.E. President Ghani in less than one week after his arrival, which made his credence the first one accepted by H.E. President Ghani in 2018. The president said with delight that this should be a sign for good fortune. This special arrangement reflects the depth of the China-Afghanistan relations, shows the great importance attached by the Afghanistan to China and their passion to Afghan-China cooperation.

 The Ambassador said, the ancient Silk Road connected China and Afghanistan closely. Zhang Qian, one of the most famous envoy in Chinese history, arrived in Afghanistan more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, many wise men and businessmen from Afghanistan traveled to China, made contribution to China’s economic and cultural development. In ancient Chinese books, it also recorded the splendor of ancient Afghanistan civilization. Today, China and Afghanistan are jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative, which will revive the Silk Road, make it more beautiful, and contribute a shared future of the two counties. The geographical and resource advantages of Afghanistan will be fully fulfilled. Afghanistan will be one of the connectivity hubs for the region and Afghan people will also enjoy more benefits.

 The Ambassador said, a lot of Afghan friends want to export more products to China , such as carpets, marbles, pomegranates, saffron and pine nuts. He had a positive attitude to this, and joked that he has a special love to pine nuts for his own name means pine tree in Chinese language. The First China Import and Export will be held in Shanghai by the end of this year, hoping Afghan friends can catch up this opportunity.

 The Ambassador said, the Prophet Muhammad has said in a Hadith that Seek knowledge even as far away as China. There is also a proverb in Afghanistan, saying Friendship is the path of a thousand years. The Silk Road is not only a road for knowledge and business but also a road for friendship. The Ambassador said that he came to here to promote the mutual-learning of the two peoples, and making friends with the whole society in Afghanistan, inheriting and pushing forward the long-standing friendship between China and Afghanistan. To be specific, it can be elaborated as four "to promote", that are to promote China-Afghanistan Strategic Cooperative Partnership, especially high-level visits and non-governmental exchanges, to promote the integration with the Belt and Road Initiative and Afghanistan's development strategy, to promote practical cooperation projects in all fields between China and Afghanistan, to help Afghanistan to promote the peace reconciliation and reconstruction process with Afghan led and Afghan owned principle, as well as the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbors.

 The Ambassador said his greatest hobby is reading. Before he came to Afghanistan, he surprisingly found Chairman Mao used to say in a book that Afghanistan is a heroic country that has never given in. China and Afghanistan are friendly countries. China does not want to harm Afghanistan. Afghanistan does not want to harm China. The two countries always support each other. This remark profoundly reflects the Chinese people's feelings to the Afghan people. China is a large country, however, it has never bullied Afghanistan, never intervened Afghan internal affairs, never sought geopolitical interests or agents in Afghanistan. Instead, it upholds the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness, treat Afghanistan equally and help the Afghan people to achieve peace and reconstruction whole-heatedly. After he assumed office, there are Afghan friends who sincerely told him that the Afghan people trust China so much that you can say "China's friends are friends of Afghanistan. China's enemies are enemies of Afghanistan." He is deeply moved by the remark.

 The Ambassador further pointed out that poverty, backwardness and terrorism are common enemies to China and Afghanistan. Diminishing these enemies requires sincere international cooperation, especially cooperation between neighboring countries. It is not a solution to acts willfully and accuse each other. The people of China and Afghanistan are both victims of terrorism. He grew up in Xinjiang, and has a keenly-felt pain to terrorists, shared the suffering and sacrifices afforded by Afghans. Both China and Afghanistan oppose terrorism in all its forms and advocate the eradication of the root causes of terrorism, taking comprehensive policies to tackle both the symptoms and root causes.

 At last, the Ambassador said, he likes listening to stories, and also telling stories. The Arabic story named The Thousand and One Nights is widely known in China, however, the old and new stories about China-Afghanistan friendship takes even more than one thousand and one nights to elaborate. During these days, Ambassador Liu is moved by the story of Mr. Ali who safeguard the Chinese Embassy during the war, the story of Chinese workers and volunteers who gain the trust of Bamyan people, the story of Afghan businessmen who help the locals in Yiwu, China, and also the story of Afghan students’ love story in China. Ambassador Liu hopes to hear  nice stories every day, and also contributes more nice stories to China-Afghanistan friendship.

 

Looking for help on the Afghanistan problem

Sunday, 14 January 2018 03:29 Written by

The West cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan alone. The U.S. and its European allies can treat the symptoms, but they can only stave off the absolute disaster for a period of time, at the cost of much blood and treasure.

In a September 2012 telephone conversation with the erstwhile US president Barack Obama, then Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked him to “cut into the activity of war and make up with Pakistan on the peace process with the Taliban” in Afghanistan or “take the war against terrorism where the sanctuaries are”.

 President Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet accusing Pakistan of “lies and deceit” was not a random emotional comment by an American leader who tends to follow his instincts more than the advice of the entrenched foreign policy community. It reflected the deep mistrust that has characterized the U.S.-Pakistan relationship that has only grown since 9/11.

On the same day the moon blotted out the sun in an eclipse last year, President Trump announced a “new” Afghanistan policy that blotted out common sense and any hope that we’d extricate ourselves from our longest war and withdraw from the land long known as the graveyard of empires. Trump was vague about how many soldiers he plans to dump into the quagmire while hanging a bullseye on their backs, but most estimates put it at about 3,000.

On December 26, 2017, the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was held in Beijing. The two most important takeaways from this trilateral dialogue were Beijing’s “read[iness] to play a constructive role in improving Afghanistan-Pakistan relations” and decision on “extending CPEC [the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] to Afghanistan.”

Following past patterns of behavior, President Trump issued his first tweet of 2018 insulting Pakistan and building on his threat to cut off foreign military financing that is one piece of the massive assistance package that the US gives the country each year.

A deadly suicide attack that claimed the lives of 41 people in Kabul on Thursday was another stark reminder that the U.S. war against terrorism in Afghanistan — now in its 16th year and the longest American war — is far from over.

The latest standoff between Ustad Atta Muhammad Noor, the powerful Governor of Balkh province, and the leadership of the National Unity government has equally attracted national and international attention.