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China set to woo Taliban but fears of Uyghur backlash remain

China's concerns related to Uyghur presence in Afghanistan rise

Pushing forth projects under the multi-billion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which cut across Afghanistan is China’s primary concern amid rising uncertainty in the region as the Taliban took control.

Even as Beijing made it clear that it is willing to deepen friendly relations with the Taliban and would provide assistance in rebuilding the war-torn Afghanistan, worries have risen for Beijing too.

“If the Taliban builds a new country after it takes complete control, it should keep its promise to cut off all ties with terrorists, extremists and separatists – the ‘Three Evils’ – in the region, and make sure Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground for those forces,” the Global Times said.

Also read: China ready to deepen ties with Taliban as part of great game against West

While the US decision to pull out troops from Afghanistan has provided much material for China’s propaganda agencies to discredit Washington’s foreign policy, “Beijing is also treading a careful line in navigating an increasingly uncertain security situation in one of its most volatile neighbours,” the Guardian noted.

A foreign policy watcher told India Narrative that China, which is grappling with the ‘Uyghur problem’ will be concerned as it would have to “perhaps deal with foreign terror outfits” in Afghanistan.

A United Nations report revealed that militant Uyghur groups are already present in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The Uyghur Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) – a Uyghur militant group — has also been expanding its network.

The UN report said that “the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement has a transnational agenda to target Xinjiang, China, and the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor, as well as Chitral, Pakistan, which poses a threat to China, Pakistan and other regional States.”

The report further said that about 500 fighters of the group have been operating in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province adjoining China.

Also read: Biden cuts short holiday, issues stern warning to Taliban

“China will be happy that the US is leaving Afghanistan but at the same time, we need to remember that Beijing has high stakes with billions of dollars invested in the BRI-CPEC projects. With uncertainty rising in the region, terror threats have increased significantly and that will be a headache for the world as well as China even if it strikes an equation with the Taliban,” the foreign policy analyst said.