BEIJING: The top diplomats from China and Pakistan took swipes at President Donald Trump’s newly unveiled Afghanistan policy on Friday as they called for new talks with the Taliban to resolve the 16-year conflict.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing stood firmly behind its “ironclad friend” Pakistan, even though “some countries” did not give Islamabad the credit it deserved in fighting terrorism, a pointed reference to the U.S.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s first trip abroad to Beijing this week appeared to highlight how ties between the two all-weather allies have grown even closer while Pakistan’s critical relationship with the U.S. is disintegrating amid mutual recriminations and distrust.
Wang and Asif announced that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold a new series of three-way talks later this year in China to push forward settlement negotiations with the Taliban while the US doubles down on its military campaign.
Trump infuriated Pakistan last month when he accused Islamabad of providing extremists safe haven and threatened to withhold military aid. He further raised alarms in Pakistan when he raised the prospect of recruiting archrival India into the US strategy in Afghanistan.
US officials said this week that $225 million in military aid for Pakistan have been suspended while about 3,500 additional troops will head to Afghanistan to reverse the Taliban’s battleground advances and gain leverage in negotiations.
“It’s our firm view that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement,” Asif told reporters in Beijing. “China is playing a very constructive role in this regard.”
Pakistan has repeatedly rejected US accusations that it is abetting groups like the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, a position that China has backed.
“The government and people of Pakistan have made huge sacrifices in the fight against terror for everyone to see and the international community should recognize that,” Wang said.
The two ministers presented a closely unified front just days after China handed Pakistan an unexpected diplomatic setback at the BRICS economic summit in Xiamen. On Monday, China joined several nations to declare militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as terrorist organizations, in a move that was praised by India and the US.
Asif did not address the terror designation on Friday but was quoted by Pakistani media before arriving in Beijing as saying that it should not jeopardize bilateral ties. Rather, Pakistan should put its “house in order,” he said.
“The government and people of Pakistan have made huge sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and such efforts and sacrifices are there for everyone to see,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said. “The international community should recognise that... and give Pakistan the full credit it deserves,” he added.
The remarks were made at a press briefing in Beijing following a meeting between Wang and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. In a major speech outlining US policy on Afghanistan last month, Trump slammed Pakistan for offering safe havens to “agents of chaos” and suggested relations would be adjusted immediately. He offered few details.
Following Trump’s remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also cautioned that Pakistan could lose its status as a major US ally and see its US military aid suspended.
Asif on Friday said it is Pakistan’s firm view that maintaining regional security is a “critical” priority and focus should remain on peaceful solutions.
He also thanked Beijing for its role in hosting a trilateral Afghanistan-China-Pakistan foreign ministers’ forum, which is expected to take place before the end of this year.—Agencies