By Hamza Ameer
Islamabad, Aug 25 (IANS) As ways are being paved towards peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government; China is calling on Pakistan to open its five key border crossings with Afghanistan to allow bilateral and transit trade of Afghan exports to India.
This is going to be one of the top agendas of the talks between the Taliban delegation, which will be meeting with Pakistani leadership to discuss the progress and way forward of peace dialogue during its stay in Islamabad.
Afghanistan relies on Pakistani land routes and seaports to carry out its international trade. The two countries share at least 18 crossing points while most commonly used are the Torkham and Chaman border in northwest and southwest of Pakistan, respectively.
Analyst believe that Islamabad’s recent steps to open five key crossing points are the result of China’s ongoing efforts to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to Afghanistan.
Recently, Pakistan has reopened Torkham, Chaman, Ghulam Khan, Angoor Adda and Kharlachi border crossing points, which are now operating for at least six days a week, working round the clock.
Pakistan government sources confirmed that the opening of the three crossings, other than the Torkham and Chaman border, were decided in the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Vice Foreign Minister Strategic Dialgoue, which was set up to normalize tensions between Islamabad and Kabul.
Pakistan, despite its ongoing escalation and confrontational tensions with India, announced in July that it would resume Afghan exports to India through eastern Wagah border crossing, aimed at “facilitating Afghanistan’s transit trade”.
“With this step, Pakistan has fulfilled its commitments under Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement,” maintained Pakistan foreign office.
Opening of the new trade routes by Pakistan is being appreciated by global powers as World Bank has come with a financial support of $460.6 million for Islamabad to approve the Khyber Pass Economic Corridor, a 48km expressway between Peshawar and the Torkham border.
“China supports the CPEC extension to Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can benefit from the BRI,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.
On the other hand, India opposes any project under the name of Belt and Road, as part of the route passes through Pakistan administered Kashmir.
The BRI project of China initially did not include Afghanistan. But with NATO troops withdrew, Beijing reviewed and revised its policy and considered Afghanistan as the primary link between Central Asian republics and CPEC.