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US cautiously welcomes Chinese mediation between Pakistan, Afghanistan

By Waseem Abbasi
June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON: The United States has cautiously welcomed the Chinese shuttle diplomacy to ease tensions between Islamabad and Kabul urging the regional states to play "a positive role" in bringing stability to Afghanistan.

Speaking to The News, about a recent visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Pakistan and Afghanistan, a state department official said US shares interest with China for Afghan stability.

“We share an interest with all regional states, including China, in seeing Afghanistan become increasingly secure, and politically and economically stable,” the State Department said.

Chinese officials have termed the shuttle visit of Wang Yi last week fruitful one as Pakistan and Afghanistan showed goodwill to each other that in a major step towards improving the relations. Recently, Afghanistan and Pakistan have accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border and the differences were so open that envoys of both countries had a heated exchange in Washington earlier this month.

“The United States encourages all regional partners to play a positive role through engagement and support for the Afghan government,” the State Department said.

United States is currently reviewing its Afghan war strategy and the Pentagon officials have hinted at sending up to 5,000 more US troops to Afghanistan to end the stalemate in war against Taliban.

When asked about US mediatory role between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the State Department official called for practical dialogue between the two neighbours.

“The United States consistently encouraged practical dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address differences in their bilateral relationship.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang had told media in Beijing this week that the Wang Yi’s visit on 24-25 June was aimed at conducting shuttle diplomacy on the request of the Afghan and Pakistani sides.

The spokesperson said Chinese leader wanted to seek opinions from both sides and the understanding of the situation to help improve the relations and promote the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

After the conclusion of Chinese minister’s visit, a join communiqué was issued which stated that Afghanistan and Pakistan would establish a crisis control mechanism to enable effective communication on contingencies.

The communique said China, Afghanistan and Pakistan are committed to safeguarding regional peace and stability, enhancing connectivity and economic cooperation and pursuing common security and development.

The three countries also agreed to restart quadrilateral peace process in Afghanistan which also includes United States, calling on Taliban to join peace process as soon as possible.

Experts believe cooperation between the two countries is key to US success in 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

“It's critical. Both countries are victimised by cross-border terrorist attacks. If the two countries can figure out a way to work together on border security, there would be fewer terrorist attacks and more stability on both the sides of the border,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Kugelman believes US can bring the two countries together for the common goal of sustainable peace.

“I do think there is serious scope for the US to mediate Afghanistan-Pakistan tensions, given that both sides are open to outside offers of help. The question is whether the US government has the capacity to serve as a mediator,” he says.