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China's foreign minister makes surprise Afghanistan trip

March 24, 2022

Beijing's top diplomat Wang Yi has met with top Taliban leaders in Kabul for the first time since the fundamentalist group took power in August. Wang also visited India amid a controversy regarding Kashmir.

China's foreign minister arrives in Kabul
China has sought closer ties with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, whereas western nations have taken a hard line against the groupImage: Taliban Foreign Ministry/AFP

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thursday in an attempt to deepen political and economic ties between the two countries. 

Wang met with Taliban leaders in Kabul, his first trip to the country since the fundamentalist group took control in August. Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi were two top Taliban officials present at the meeting.

What did the Chinese, Taliban leaders speak about?

During the visit, China's top diplomat reportedly expressed concern that Afghanistan could become a staging ground for attacks by Muslim Uyghur separatists. 

A statement from Baradar's office claimed that Wang had been assured over all concerns China thinks may "emerge from the soil of Afghanistan." The statement did not mention the Uyghurs directly, however.

China's concerns are not without reason, as the Taliban previously harbored members of the al-Qaida terrorist group when it was last in power in the early 2000's. 

A statement from Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said Wang spoke with Muttaqi about "expanding political and economic ties" and working together in Afghanistan's mining sector.

Although China has not recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate leaders since the group returned to power, Beijing has shied away from criticizing the Taliban.

Next week, China will hold a summit with foreign ministers from six of Afghanistan's neighboring countries. The meeting will center on Afghanistan's ongoing humanitarian crisis following the Taliban takeover.

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Wang visits India amid Kashmir controversy

Later on Thursday, Wang reportedly met with his Indian counterpart, the first high-level visit by a Chinese diplomat since bloody border skirmishes dampened bilateral ties in 2020. The trip was not officially announced by the Indian or Chinese governments.

Wang's visit also comes after the foreign minister was criticized by the Indian government over his recent remarks pertaining to the disputed Kashmir region.

Earlier this week, Wang addressed a conference by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where he said China "shares the same hope" as the OIC in regards to Muslim-majority Kashmir. The OIC has called for self-determination for the territory, which is partly controlled by India.

"We reject the uncalled reference to India by the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Xi," the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

wd/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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