(Photo credit: Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan)
On 24 March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People’s Republic of China landed in Kabul, Afghanistan for his first visit to the country after the withdrawal of US forces and the establishment of the interim government led by the Taliban.
The trip comes as the Chinese foreign minister returns from Pakistan where he attended the foreign ministers’ summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Wang met with the Afghan interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
China has extended its hand of diplomacy to Afghanistan following the end of the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan, including proposals to integrate Afghanistan into the Belt and Road Initiative.
China has sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and has established trade ties, buying Afghan products and providing a source of much needed foreign currency reserves for Afghanistan in the midst of a severe economic crisis plaguing the country.
The unilateral seizing of Afghanistan’s sovereign wealth held in foreign banks by the US administration was strongly criticized by Beijing, calling on the US to return the money to Afghanistan.
The partnerships of Afghanistan with China, as well as with the Islamic Republic of Iran and other neighboring countries, is contingent on implementing reforms for the new Afghan government that disavow the abuses of the Taliban rule of the 1990s.
The current Taliban leadership mainly comprises moderate factions that were boosted into power largely due to the efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the US invasion in 2001.
The interim government, led by the Taliban, has pledged to uphold the rights of religious minorities and women, and many indications have shown adherence to these pledges, such as the protection of the annual Shia Muslim commemoration of Ashura, as well as encouragement of women to serve in government positions.
However, on 23 March, a Taliban decision to temporarily shut down high schools for girls has raised concerns about whether the interim government can be trusted to uphold its promises in the long term.