China, Pakistan, Afghanistan issue joint statement on ‘trilateral cooperation’

Foreign ministers of Pakistan and China, along with the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, have resolved to deepen and expand mutual cooperation in development, security and political domains, “based on the principles of mutual respect, equal-footed consultation and mutual benefit”.

In a joint statement issued on Monday by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and the Taliban’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi the three underscored the critical importance of trilateral cooperation in promoting a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

Despite the Taliban not having been recognized as the legitimate government by any country, Muttaqi agreed, alongside China and Pakistan, to continue with the trilateral cooperation mechanism in order to forge closer relations and partnerships with the two neighboring countries.

Qin and Zardari, along with Muttaqi, expressed satisfaction at the existing trilateral cooperation arrangement, and agreed to carry out exchange and training programs and to strengthen “people-to-people exchanges” by conducting the trilateral programs in line with a “List of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Practical Cooperation Projects”, adopted by the foreign ministers in Saturday’s dialogue.

“The three sides reaffirmed to continue cooperation in areas of mutual interest like economic development, capacity building, and improving livelihoods. The ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields such as agriculture, trade, energy, capacity building, border management etc,” the statement read.

Taking note of the Taliban’s repeated assurances to respect and protect women’s rights and interests, the three sides called on the international community to support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, and help the Taliban improve governance and strengthen capacity building “so as to effectively protect the basic rights and interests of all segments of the Afghan society, including women and children”.

According to the statement, the three sides underscored the need to tackle security challenges posing “a serious threat to regional and global security, and directly impacting the stability and economic prosperity of the entire region”. They also agreed to coordinate and cooperate on security, organized crimes, and drug smuggling.

In line with this, they called on the international community to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and provide necessary supplies, equipment and technical assistance in this regard. The ministers also stressed the need for militant groups including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to not be allowed to use the respective countries to pose a threat to regional security.

“All three sides underscored the need to refrain from intervening into internal affairs of Afghanistan, and to promote Afghan peace, stability and reconstruction,” the statement read.

The three sides underscored the need to explore realistic pathways to revive Afghanistan’s economy and to support “investment possibilities aimed at industrialization and job creation”.

The humanitarian situation was also noted, with the three sides stressing the need for continued support to the people of Afghanistan; stating the crisis must not be politicized.

In addition, they reaffirmed their resolve to fully harness Afghanistan’s potential as a hub for regional connectivity, and agreed to “further the trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and to jointly extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.”

They also stressed the importance of existing projects including CASA-1000, TAPI, and Trans-Afghan Railways, which they said would “enhance regional connectivity as well as ensure economic uplift and prosperity for the peoples of this region”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson meanwhile said during a readout in Beijing that the three sides agreed to uphold relations, deepen political trust, respect each other’s sovereignty, and handle conflicts through equal consultation.

They oppose “illegal unilateral sanctions” against Afghanistan and interference in its internal affairs, the ministry’s spokesman stated.

In a separate meeting with Muttaqi on May 6, Qin said that China will “stand firmly” with the Afghan people and support Afghanistan in pursuing a development path suited to its national conditions “no matter how the international and regional situation changes.”

The Taliban hasn’t been recognized as a legitimate government by any country, including Pakistan and China, but, according to analysts, Beijing has sought to deepen economic ties with the Taliban, with an eye on benefiting from Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits.