Blog Post #2: Writing Away

Over the past week, I have been writing my paper about Chinese involvement in Afghanistan. It’s been coming along okay, however it’s turning out to be much longer than I originally anticipated. I’m a little over half way through, and I’ve already written 15 pages. I’m now anticipating the finished product to be around 25 pages long.

So far, one of the topics I have written about is a brief, summarized history of China’s foreign relations with the Taliban in post-Soviet Afghanistan. I’ve found this aspect of my research to be particularly interesting. I did not realize just how unique China’s relations with the Taliban were during the 1990s. China was one of the few non-Muslim countries to ever have direct contact with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. I will include an excerpt from the paper that discusses how their diplomacy developed:

 

Beijing was initially wary of a Taliban-led Afghanistan. During the 1990s, China experienced an escalation of Islamic revival, ethnic tensions, and separatist ideas among the Muslim Uyghur people in Xinjiang. China was worried that Uyghurs who traveled to Afghanistan to train with Islamic extremist groups, such as the East Turkistan Islamist Movement (ETIM), would return to China and encourage domestic terrorism and separatism. [i] However, Pakistan persuaded China to pursue diplomatic relations with the Taliban. The Taliban sorely needed funding and international legitimacy, as much of the international community, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, did not officially recognize the Taliban-led government. Pakistan assured China that official recognizing the Taliban government would give China the leverage to ask for expulsion of Uyghur militants training within Afghanistan’s boarders.[ii] During the end of the 1990s, China gradually increased relations with Afghanistan, beginning with preliminary delegate meetings in 1999, followed by the opening of formal trade ties and alleged “low-level military support” to the Taliban.[iii]

These diplomatic efforts culminated in a December 2000 meeting between Lu Shulin, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, and Mullah Omar, Taliban head-of-state. This assembly carries the distinction of being one of the only times Mullah Omar held talks with a high ranking non-Muslim official. During the meeting, Lu presented concerns that “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was allegedly assisting the Muslims in Xinjiang,” to which Omar asserted that “Afghanistan never had any interest or wish to interfere in China’s domestic issues and affairs, nor would Afghanistan allow any group to use its territory to conduct any such operations or support one to that end.”[iv] This diplomatic encounter produced some favorable promises for each country, but actions taken  weren’t as extensive as either side preferred. Although China did not veto UN sanctions against Afghanistan, they did at least abstain from the vote. For their part, the Taliban ordered ETIM to end attacks against China, but did not ultimately expel Afghan-based Uyghur militants or prohibit them from training with other groups.

 


[i] Small, Andrew. China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics. USA: Oxford University Press, 2015. 71-75. MyiLibrary. 12 August 2015.

[ii] Small, 127.

[iii] Small, 128.

[iv] Small, 129.