Economy

Pointing to Pakistan, Afghan observers warn against Chinese investment

By Sulaiman

Residents of Gwadar, Pakistan, regularly protest against Chinese projects in the region. This protest, attended by thousands of residents, occurred in late 2021. [Jamaat-e-Islami]

Residents of Gwadar, Pakistan, regularly protest against Chinese projects in the region. This protest, attended by thousands of residents, occurred in late 2021. [Jamaat-e-Islami]

KABUL -- Chinese investment in Afghanistan benefits only Beijing and aims to hijack the region's trade and economy, say Afghan analysts pointing to neighbouring Pakistan's experiences.

China has in recent months offered to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a Pakistani component of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), to Afghanistan.

Beijing "supports the extension of the CPEC to Afghanistan", Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the sidelines of a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) summit of foreign ministers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

"China hopes to push the alignment of the BRI with the development strategies of Afghanistan," he said July 29.

This photograph taken on May 17 shows the base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, Logar province. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

This photograph taken on May 17 shows the base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, Logar province. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

A Chinese investor meets with Herat Governor Noor Ahmad Islamjar last November regarding Afghan mines. [Herat governor's office]

A Chinese investor meets with Herat Governor Noor Ahmad Islamjar last November regarding Afghan mines. [Herat governor's office]

China has pledged up to $60 billion -- mostly in the form of loans -- for infrastructure projects under the CPEC.

Launched in 2015, CPEC spans 2,700km from Pakistan's Gwadar port in Balochistan province, through the Khunjerab pass in Gilgit-Baltistan and into China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

Pakistani officials initially lauded the CPEC as a leap forward for the country's economy as well as for relations with China.

But now, concerns and growing anger about China's failure to protect local economic interests, high guaranteed returns on equity to Chinese investors unaffordable national debt overshadow any merits of the project.

The slow pace of the project is particularly worrisome.

"Economic or any other project have specific timelines, but we can see that the CPEC's implementation rate has been only 20% since 2015," said Fahim Chakari, a former department director at the Afghan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

"The slow implementation of the CPEC and other projects such as the Mes Aynak mine shows that China's projects are not planned for the sake of the trade and economic growth of the regional countries but for its economic, political and security goals, interests and policies."

In 2007, Afghan authorities inked a $3 billion deal with a Chinese state-run mining consortium to mine ore for 30 years at Mes Aynak, which holds the world's second largest copper deposit.

War and disagreements between Beijing and Kabul over financial terms of the contract caused delays, and only now are talks ongoing on how to proceed.

"Although the CPEC has been going on for years, it has not yielded any results yet," Chakari said.

"China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan, but Pakistan's economy is in very bad shape right now and it is one of the most indebted countries in the world."

"This shows that no country in the region can benefit from China's economic projects. Afghanistan will not gain anything should it join the CPEC."

China gives false hope to regional countries and keeps them busy by planning and designing different economic projects, all while secretly trying to implement its strategic economic plans in the region, said Qasim Akbari, 25, a business administration student at a private university in Kabul.

"Therefore, we will not benefit from Afghanistan joining the CPEC; it will even bring losses to us."

"By providing loans and giving false economic promises to Afghanistan, China wants only to make Afghanistan indebted, dependent and reliant on China," he said.

"China is trying to implement large projects in the region to further and expand its economic and political plans," said Darya Khan Baheer, a US-based Afghan economic analyst.

"The CPEC is one of its projects in the region, but only China will reap its short- and long-term benefits," he said.

"On the surface, China wants Afghanistan to join the CPEC ... But in reality, China wants to use Afghanistan as a tool for its economic interests," he said.

"If Afghanistan joins the CPEC, China will benefit the most, not our country."

Natural resources

China in particular is eyeing Afghanistan's mineral wealth.

"China's policy is to economically dominate Third World countries. Therefore, in view of the current economic and political situation in Afghanistan, China is trying to use Afghanistan's geography for its interests," said Mohammad Shabir Bashiri, a Kabul-based economic analyst.

"It also wants to gain economic dominance in Afghanistan and take all natural resources, raw materials and underground wealth," he said.

"China's goal of connecting South Asia with Central Asia through Afghanistan has economic and political angles," he added.

"By providing loans and implementing economic projects, the Chinese on one hand want to take over the South Asian, Central Asian and Afghan markets, and on the other hand, to monopolise and hijack the regional economy, trade and transit."

"China is an industrial and manufacturing country, and it badly needs Afghanistan's natural resources and raw materials," said Sear Quraishi, a London-based economic analyst and former director of the Afghan Private Banks Association.

"Therefore, it is trying to access Afghanistan's natural resources and raw materials by implementing different projects and including it in the CPEC," he said

"China understands Afghanistan's fragile and crisis-ridden economy well. Therefore, by giving it loans, it tries to bury it in debt and eventually to subjugate it so that it can easily implement its economic and political agenda in the region and Afghanistan."

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Just a year ago, on the 15th of August, as a result of the Doha agreement, the Taliban illegally seized the power. They eradicated the legal and legitimate system of the republic which was built at the price of the blood of thousands of Afghans, the consumption of $ billion which was paid by American taxpayers, and the killing of hundreds of US and NATO soldiers and contractors. Since that date, Afghanistan has been facing a different problem every moment. Once again, Pakistan was able to overthrow a legitimate government of Afghanistan by Taliban and with support from the United States. Since that day, this country has been trying to take Afghanistan backward by its puppet regime in Kabul. The United States must stand to its obligations and not recognize the Taliban until they fulfill their previous promises. Pakistan should be forced to stop supporting of extremist groups within the Taliban. The United Nations Security Council must pass a resolution declaring that until a legitimate and legal government is established in Afghanistan any contract for Afghanistan's mines is illegal.

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The United states’ irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan, cooperation with Pakistan in the collapse of the republic, setting the stage for the Taliban to regain power, and trusting the Taliban, have laid the plot for such a day. Hence, the United States is the main responsible at first, and then the previous incompetent Afghan leaders. With its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States paved the way for a Pakistani puppet regime to gain power in Afghanistan and as a consequence, Pakistan wants to improve its fragile economic situation by utilizing the natural resources of Afghanistan. With the help of Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban, China also wants to receive Afghanistan’s mining contract and loot Afghanistan within a few years. The world shouldn’t allow Pakistan and China to illegally extract Afghanistan's natural resources. The world must stop interference of this terrorist country in Afghanistan by imposing sanctions on Pakistan.

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In short, if we look at the situation of neighboring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other African countries, it is clear that making a friendship with China is useful only for the Chinese, not to other partners. If Afghanistan would make relations with China like that of Pakistan and African countries, then it can already be said that the mines of Afghanistan are considered to be missing. Because wherever the Chinese have gone, they have hijacked the trade and economy of the region.

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