Kabul [Afghanistan], August 15 (ANI): China and Pakistan are planning to rope in a third country in the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, however, Afghanistan's participation in the project will lead to the complete isolation of Taliban from the world community.
As a step in this direction, Pakistan has offered Taliban-led Afghanistan to join the CPEC in the recently held 3rd meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group (JWG) on International Cooperation and Coordination (JWG-ICC), reported Afghan Diaspora Network. "In the context of regional connectivity, both sides exchanged their views in the JWG on the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan to promote economic development and prosperity," China stated.
Pakistan is projecting the offer as connectivity support to Afghanistan aimed at connecting Kabul with South Asia and the Central Asian region to enhance Afghan exports at a time when the country is struggling hard for foreign exchange. But Islamabad's main underlying agenda is to assert its economic dominance over Kabul in connivance with China and to exploit the precious natural resources of the country, reported the Afghan Diaspora Network.
The two countries find it an opportune moment to exploit it for their strategic advantages as Afghanistan has plunged into an economic crisis and international assistance to it has been cut off since the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban a year ago due to lack of recognition of the government.
In the disguise of helping the poor nation in managing its economy, both Islamabad and Beijing are all out to capture strategic space in the country and dent into the economic sovereignty of the Afghan people. Islamabad also wants to use the expansion of CPEC to Afghanistan as a way to revive its own economy using its neighbour's resources.
Engaging Afghanistan as a third party in the CPEC could also absolve Pakistan and China from criticism regarding wielding political influence over a country in crisis without doing enough for restoration of a legitimate government and ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential goods to people, reported the Afghan Diaspora Network.
China has also been criticized for its intent to take advantage of the lack of resources of poor countries for the development of infrastructure. If the same template is used by China, it would offer high-cost loans to gain access to Afghanistan's natural resources and assets.
However, both of them want to hold control over this strategically important country under the guise of economic cooperation.
In recent days, there have been several instances involving the mention of third-party inclusion in CPEC, attracting negative public comments. The whole idea in Pakistan's hidden agenda for Afghan participation in CPEC is harnessing the energy and other resources required for its own trade and industries. However, this would also serve the Chinese purpose of accessing Afghanistan's huge wealth of unexploited natural resources, especially the rare earth elements, reported the Afghan Diaspora Network.
Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, etc. Returning to power in Afghanistan after a 20-year absence, the Taliban have regained control of natural resources which could be worth up to USD 1-3 trillion. An internal US Department of Defence memo in 2010 reportedly described Afghanistan as "the Saudi Arabia of lithium," meaning it could be crucial for the global supply of the metal, reported the Afghan Diaspora Network.
Afghanistan holds 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals, a group of 17 elements prized for their applications in consumer electronics, as well as in military equipment. China is strategically looking for access to these minerals in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal.
Moreover, the implementation of CPEC has sparked criticism, including that it burdens Pakistan with mountains of debt, allowing China to use 'debt-trap diplomacy' to gain access to strategic assets. A closer look at CPEC indicates that concerns around debt sustainability, tepid economic growth and overall economic and social instability in Pakistan are proving right, reported the Afghan Diaspora Network.
Falling into the Chinese or Pakistani trap could have long-term ramifications for Afghanistan. China has no record of saving any economy from the crisis while Pakistan lacks the capacity to help. Chinese engagement had landed Pakistan into crisis as it did in the case of Sri Lanka. It should try to avoid allurements and find rational solutions to its economic and political woes. Joining CPEC may further isolate it from the international community.