Khaleej Times has an interesting interview today with Sun Weidong, Deputy Director General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asian Department.
It’s a particularly timely interview because Afghanistan has been high on the agenda of the annual summit of the Chinese-hosted Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and has among its observer-states Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was invited to attend the meeting, but it’s not clear whether he did so.
People’s Daily reports that the summit repeated its earlier call for the U.N. to play a greater role in Afghanistan and expressed the belief that believed “‘military means alone’ cannot solve the country’s problems.”
Sun expanded on that latter point in his interview with the Khaleej Times. He noted– as was also made clear in the SCO summit statement– that China and all of Afghanistan’s other neighbors have been experiencing great problems from the inflow of drugs to their countries from Afghanistan.
Here is some of what Sun said about political initiatives in Afghanistan, the links between the situation there and the challenges China faces from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and the limited utility of military power:
- Q: How does China view negotiations with insurgents as part of a comprehensive strategy?
A: We support the Reconciliation and Reintegration plan of the Afghan government and we think that such a process should have inclusiveness and it could overtake and go beyond different nationalities, different religious beliefs and even different political sectors. That is the way long lasting and comprehensive national reconciliation could be achieved. We hope to see some positive progress in this process. We hope to see the peace jirga in Kabul bearing success.
Q: How does China view links between organisations like East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and terror groups in the region?
A: We are against any sort of extremism, separatism or terrorism. The ETIM is a direct terrorist threat to China nowadays and it has also created a security threat to our neighbouring countries. It is a terrorist organisation that has been listed by the UN Security Council. We appreciate the Afghan government to provide very important support to China to fight against such terrorist forces and we are going to enhance such cooperation in this field so we can safeguard the mutual interest of security for both countries.
We also think that Pakistan is a very important country, it is frontier country in the international campaign against terrorism and it has played a very positive role in this regard. We also know that Pakistan started military actions last April in areas like Swat and South Waziristan to fight against those militants and has made some positive achievements so I think the international community should give full comments on these efforts made by Pakistan. We appreciate the efforts Pakistan made for the security of China. I think we need to respect Pakistan’s own anti-terrorism strategy…
Q: How does China feel about drone strikes in Pakistan and a new military offensive in North Waziristan?
A: The most important thing as a friend, we found, is to ensure security and stability so the country could enjoy peace, tranquility and also the development of economy and progress of society. We, in China, found that some of the root causes of terrorism are backwardness of development, of economy and society and lack of education. So military means may not be the only way out, the international community should help Pakistan to improve the livelihood of its people and support efforts to wipe these terrorists of its soil so they are unable to propagate to achieve long lasting peace in Afghanistan.