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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Taliban Welcome First Chinese Ambassador Since Takeover

Military honor guards welcome Chinese Ambassador Zhao Xing at the presidential palace in Kabul. 

Report from Kabul, the Afghanistan capital says, China has become the first country to name an ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 2021.

The Taliban says Zhao Xing’s appointment is a sign for other nations to establish ties with its government.

Analysts say the move shows how China is seeking to establish its influence in the region.

Taliban leaders received Zhao at the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday under lavish protocol.

China’s foreign ministry says Beijing will “continue advancing dialogue and cooperation” with Afghanistan and that its policy towards the country is “clear and consistent”.

Zhao’s appointment is part of a “normal rotation” of Chinese ambassadors to Afghanistan, it adds.

The Taliban has not been formally recognised by any foreign government, but China was among the first countries to engage with them since US-led foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Beijing has significant interests in the country, which is at the centre of a region that is important to its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

In January this year, the Taliban signed a contract with a Chinese firm to drill for oil in the north of Afghanistan.

It was the first major energy extraction agreement with a foreign firm since the Taliban seized power.

Some analysts say China’s move is aimed at shoring up its influence in the region.

“By being the first to name an ambassador post-takeover, China aims to position itself as an influential actor in the region — a possible diplomatic flexing of muscles, especially when many Western countries are still hesitant to engage with the Taliban,” said Farwa Aamer, Director of South Asia Initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Maintaining diplomatic ties with the Taliban may also help China keep its security challenges in check, she added.

Reports say the officials receiving Zhao at the presidential palace include acting prime minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund and acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Zhao replaces China’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Wang Yu, who finished his tenure last month.

The Taliban government has been criticised for violating human rights in Afghanistan. In particular, the suppression of women’s rights under their rule is thought to be among the harshest in the world. — BBC

Source: BBC/SG.

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