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China warns its citizens to leave Afghanistan, says SCO can play a bigger post-NATO role

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China has warned its citizens to leave Afghanistan, fearing spiralling violence ahead of US troops withdrawal

China has warned its citizens to leave Afghanistan, fearing spiralling violence ahead of the US withdrawal from the country by September 11.

“This year, the conflicts in Afghanistan are constant, the terrorist attacks are frequent and the security situation is becoming more severe and complicated,” the embassy said in a notice. It urged Chinese citizens to “be more cautious” and to “urgently depart from the country through international commercial flights”.

The advisory has come at a time when China fears that its immediate security and geo-economic interests could take a hit in Afghanistan in the coming days.

While the US and NATO troops are departing, the Chinese believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a grouping that includes India, Pakistan, China, Russia and the Central Asian Republics can play a bigger role in stabilising Afghanistan.

For China, the power vacuum in Afghanistan in the wake of US withdrawal could re-radicalise Afghanistan, which in the nineties, under Taliban rule, was the epicentre of global terrorism. China fears that consolidation of Islamic terror post-US pull-out can surge the flow of Uyghur extremists across the Wakhan corridor into Xinjiang, the heart of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Xinjiang is at the heart of the new routes that China is carving out under BRI that pass through Central Asia to reach Europe. Xinjiang is also key to China’s energy security as the West-East gas pipelines ferrying natural gas from Central Asia pass through Xinjiang before heading for China’s industrial heartland focalised in coastal cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Second, an insecure Afghanistan can target the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—another spur of the BRI that extends from Kashgar in Xinjiang to the warm waters of the warm water of the Indian Ocean via the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

Third, instability will jeopardise, plans of China, which wants to grab the huge mineral reserves of Afghanistan by extending CPEC into the Hindukush mountains. Among other minerals, Afghanistan has huge reserves of Lithium, the feedstock that goes into cellophanes and car batteries, which are at the heart of a new generation of environmentally friendly electrical vehicles.

Analysts say that the advisory urging its people to pull out of Afghanistan signals China’s nervousness about the rapidly deteriorating situation, marked by last month’s serial explosions at a girls’ school in Kabul, which killed more than 60 people. This has been followed by several other attacks, raising suspicions that instead of dialogue, the Taliban wants to change “facts on the ground” in Afghanistan by trying to takeover territory on an industrial scale, before heading for the negotiating table.

Yet, the Chinese appear to be looking at new security arrangement outside NATO to stabilise Afghanistan in the long run. In June, Chinese foreign minister and state councillor, Wang Yi has said that the Beijing-led

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) could play a bigger role in the pushing the peace process.

The reference to SCO comes ahead of the meeting of the grouping’s national security advisers in Dushanbe in Tajikistan later this week. India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval is expected to participate in the meeting.