China, Afghanistan Deepen Ties

The Afghan government claimed on Monday that militia loyal to army chief of staff and powerful former warlord Abdul Rashi Dostum is interfering with oil exploration by Chinese state-run petroleum giant CNPC, which signed a lucrative deal late last year to develop oil fields in the northern part of the country. From Reuters:

The deal covering drilling and a refinery in the northern provinces of Sar-e Pul and Faryab, where Dostum is from, is the first international oil production agreement reached by the Afghan government for several decades.

Two government officials said supporters of Dostum were demanding a share of the proceeds. “Armed men belonging to General Dostum are intimidating the Chinese engineers in the area and creating obstacles to exploring the oil block,” a top aide to Karzai said.

He said that at a cabinet meeting chaired by Karzai last week, the mines ministry complained about interference by Dostum, a powerful former warlord who holds the largely ceremonial post of army chief of staff.

Dostum’s National Front party denied the allegations and said the government was trying to defame the general.

The news comes in the wake of a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Beijing at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit this past week, where China announced a 150 RMB grant to the Afghan government as the two sides touted the to ensure a positive strategic relationship. In their joint declaration, according to Xinhua News, the border nations also rejected the forces of terrorism, extremism, separatism and organized crime. While China has made investments for the development of oil, gas and mining projects, The New York Times reports that its true interest lies in Afghan security and, more importantly, its own internal security after Western troops withdraw from the country in 2014:

China’s major worry is the prospect of a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan lending sanctuary to the separatist group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, led by ethnic Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim people in the autonomous western region of Xinjiang. The group wants a breakaway homeland in Xinjiang.

In official statements, the Chinese government refrains from specifying the threat of Afghanistan’s harboring Uighur separatists, but an orderly transfer of power that would stop short of a Taliban takeover appears to be of uppermost importance for China.

China’s main concern is about how post-2014 Afghanistan will affect China’s internal security, the analysts said.

“China’s first concern is national security and to make sure the Uighurs don’t get more strength,” said Yun Sun, a Washington-based analyst specializing in China’s neighbors. “The official line is that the Uighurs get terrorist training in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

June 11, 2012 10:46 PM
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