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China fears hostility between Pakistan Taliban and Islamabad endangers CPEC projects

TTP chief Mufti Wali Noor Mehsud has said that China should not be influenced by Pakistan's conspiracy and deception, and avoid initiating a war against the TTP (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@srdmk01)

The fight between the terror organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban or Pakistan Taliban (TTP) and the Pakistani government endangers the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, warns the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party affiliated media.

In a recent interview, TTP chief  Mufti Wali Noor Mehsud, told Japan’s The Mainichi newspaper that the group has no enmity towards China.

"There is no hostility between the TTP and China,” but in the same breath, he warned Chinese government and its people working in Pakistan that they should  “not be influenced by Pakistan's conspiracy and deception, and to avoid initiating a war against the TTP."

But the Chinese are wary of the TTP. Many experts told the Global Times that China should not trust the TTP chief Mehsud. They warned Beijing not to fall for his tricks. 

“Chinese people or Chinese projects may be attacked in order to increase pressure on the Pakistan government,” Zhang Jiadong, a professor at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, told the Global Times.

While China and Pakistan, the iron brothers are pleased  with the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan,  and are willing to engage with them, it is the other Taliban–the TTP that is giving them nightmares, especially the Chinese. In the last two months, the TTP had mounted three attacks on Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects, killing 11 and injuring 22. 

Chinese are also worried about the TTP’s close relations with other extremist groups, including East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is a Uyghur separatist group that China calls “the most dangerous and extremist terrorist group” in its Xinjiang region. China now faces multiple threats from the region with America’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. After fighting with the Afghan Taliban against the previous Afghan government, ETIM is going to focus on  fighting against its main villain-China. Experts believe that the CPEC projects in Pakistan are  “China’s soft underbelly and a good opportunity for the TTP and its allies to target and pressure China to amend its behaviour toward the Xinjiang Muslim community. Otherwise, their attacks will continue.

“The TTP is playing tricks to confuse the international community and its leader's remarks cannot disguise the fact that the TTP is a terrorist group. Neither can it hide the fact that the TTP conducted terror attacks targeting Chinese people in Pakistan and Pakistan and the international community  should crack down on such terrorist organizations,” Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University told the Global Times. The Chinese experts are hopeful that the Afghan Taliban will dilute its ties with the TTP  if they wish to  establish a conducive environment for Chinese investments in their country. Here, the Chinese are assuming that  when it comes to the practical politics of governing, ideology will take a back seat. These experts also said that China needs to work with the Pakistan government to strengthen security measures and ensure the safety of CPEC projects.

The TTP, which pledges allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan, has increased its attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks since the “big” brother Afghan Taliban took over Afghanistan last month. But Chinese nationals who are working on the CPEC and other Chinese projects have been attacked, leaving Chinese authorities miffed and angry with the Pakistani authorities.

An editorial in the Global Times after the Dasu attack in July this year, went a step further to say that, if Pakistan's strength is insufficient, China's missiles and special forces could also directly participate in operations to eliminate threats against the Chinese in Pakistan.

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