Having made significant investments in the conflict-prone Pakistan-Afghanistan region under the highly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, China plans to protect its interests in the two countries by stationing its own forces in specially created outposts, according to top diplomatic sources. .
China is keen to expand its influence in central Asia via the Pakistan-Afghanistan route and has made strategic investments in the two countries.
Pakistan, where by some estimates Chinese investment has grown to over $60 billion, is heavily dependent on China not only for economic but also for military and diplomatic support.
Given the huge power imbalance in its favor, China has begun pressuring Pakistan to allow the construction of outposts to house its armed personnel.
However, Afghanistan, now ruled by the Taliban, has yet to live up to the expectations of both China and Pakistan in many respects.
Top diplomatic and security sources in Islamabad who requested anonymity for this report believe China’s People’s Liberation Army is working on a war-scale to establish military outposts in Afghanistan and Pakistan for smoother operations and expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative. (BRI).
According to a diplomatic source, Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong held meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Ambassador Rong has not been in Pakistan since the end of March 2022 this year, he just recently arrived in the country.
However, the meeting in which he requested the establishment of outposts for Chinese forces was perhaps Ambassador Rong’s first official meeting with the new government and state representatives.
The Chinese ambassador constantly insists on the safety of Chinese projects and the safety of its citizens, the source said.
China has already requested security posts in Gwadar and also for the use of Gwadar International Airport for its fighter jets.
The facility which can be used for military purposes will soon be operational as revealed by its fencing, another top source revealed.
However, the issue has its own sensitive dimensions as the Pakistani people may not be comfortable with a heavy Chinese military presence in the country.
There have been fears that the country is already in a situation akin to a debt trap and that Chinese tactics could leave it no better than a colony.
When it comes to Afghanistan, both China and Pakistan have their own concerns. After the Taliban took over, both Pakistan and China expected unquestioning cooperation from the land nation. However, this has not been fully implemented.
One of the main demands of the Pakistanis was that they wanted to keep the Indians out of Afghanistan. But the Kandahar-based Taliban don’t like Pakistan too much to allow it to do the shooting.
The Taliban want an independent foreign policy, including ties with India. Even Mullah Yakub, the Taliban’s defense minister, has suggested military training in India.
However, this was not the only area where Pakistan expected the new Afghan government to comply with its wishes.
The Taliban and especially groups linked to the Haqqanis were expected to facilitate the destruction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and hand over wanted militants to the Pakistani military.
The Haqqani soon made it clear that they would not comply. The reason is that Kandahari and some of the TTP leaders shared the same ancestral background. With no other option, the Pakistani military had to engage in complex ceasefire talks with the TTP.
The new Afghan government also had to recognize the Durand Line as an international border. Pakistan had erected a wire fence at considerable expense in recent years, but within weeks the Taliban and the TTP cut the wire and claimed Pakistan’s FATA region.
According to one source, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Bajwa, was already concerned about a Taliban takeover, but was opposed by his intelligence chief Faiz Hamid and powerful Corps Commanders.
China has also viewed developments in Afghanistan with some concern. The Chinese have their own concerns. The Taliban and the Haqqani show no interest in handing over the Uyghur rebels to Chinese authorities.
China also believes that they are not serious about developing the BRI network in Afghanistan. China wants access to central Asia and Europe through CPEC and Afghanistan, the diplomatic source said.
There are concerns in Beijing that Uighur extremists may have begun working with Baloch groups and the TTP to undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).