Wednesday, October 29, 2014

China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan --- China has pledged two billion yuan ($327 million) in aid to Afghanistan, which is seeking new sources of foreign help amid a U.S. drawdown and increasing worries about regional instability. -- The offer of aid through 2017 followed a meeting on Tuesday between China’s President Xi Jinping and newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a joint declaration published by China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said. Beijing and Kabul also agreed to step up intelligence sharing to fight drug trafficking and other cross-border issues. -- Afghanistan’s president wants to build ties to regional powers such as China as the U.S. and its allies draw down forces. Their combat mission ends on Dec. 31. The U.S. Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction says Washington has committed more than $100 billion to state-building and development projects in Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. -- China has interests in Afghan peace, as it fears instability there could spread more broadly across the region. China and Afghanistan share a narrow, mountainous border. -- The Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Xi as saying that China was willing to support Afghanistan’s new government, and would help with personnel training as well as developing agriculture, hydroelectricity and infrastructure. The ministry didn’t provide specifics. Chinese development work in Afghanistan has previously been limited by security concerns. -- Mr. Ghani’s visit to China is his first working trip abroad since taking office at the end of September. The Afghan president recently visited Saudi Arabia to perform umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, as part of a campaign promise. -- Until recently, Beijing’s relationship with Afghanistan has focused largely on minerals projects such as the Mes Aynak copper mine, a site outside Kabul that Chinese companies have pledged to develop. But Chinese officials in recent discussions have raised concerns about terrorism, particularly in preventing militant Islamist groups that operate in China from finding safe haven in Afghanistan, a statement from the Afghan presidential palace said. -- China faces ethnic and religious strife in its far western Xinjiang region. Ethnic Uighurs, a Turkish-speaking Chinese minority, have carried out increasingly deadly attacks on civilian and government targets in Xinjiang and elsewhere in the country. Beijing often describes assailants as religious extremists with ties to international terror groups, a claim disputed by overseas Uighur activists. -- On Friday, Mr. Ghani is expected to take part in a ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, a regional forum for countries to discuss Afghanistan-related issues. Said Reza Kazemi, a Ph.D. student who has studied the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, said China was presenting itself as a stronger regional player. -- Read More, WSJ,


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