In a meeting in Beijing, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China discussed ways to extend the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to include Afghanistan.
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters “ In the long run, through Afghanistan, we will gradually connect the CPEC with the China-Central and Western Asia Economic Corridor.”
Afghanistan has an urgent desire to develop its economy, and as an important neighbor of China and Pakistan, is willing to join the process of regional interconnection, Wang said.
“With regard to specific cooperation projects and ways of cooperation, we will determine through tripartite consultations on an equal footing.” He said.
Improving the current situation in areas near the border may be a starting point for the integration, the Foreign Minister added, pointing out that the three parties agreed to promote wider connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative.
The CPEC – a network of highways, railways, roads and special economic zones, which connects China’s Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, is opposed by India as it passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which is claimed by New Delhi.
The 3,000-km-long corridor starts from China’s Kashgar and ends at Pakistan’s Gwadar, connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt in the north and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in the south.
Wang said the CPEC has not targeted at any third party but hopes to bring benefits to the entire region and become an important driving force for regional integration.
“The CPEC is an economic cooperation project and should not be politicized,” he said, noting that it has no relationship with existing disputes in the region, including territorial disputes, nor should it be related.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained since the US invaded the South Asian country with China trying to promote talks between the parties. In recent years, the task has been even more complicated as Afghanistan accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban insurgents fighting the US-backed government in Kabul to restrict India’s influence in the country. Pakistan has denied the allegations.