China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan Pledge Trilateral Cooperation on Security and Counterterrorism

China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan Pledge Trilateral Cooperation on Security and Counterterrorism

At a recent meeting in Islamabad, foreign ministers from China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan pledged to strengthen trilateral cooperation on security and counterterrorism. The ministers emphasized the importance of maintaining good relations, deepening political mutual trust, respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolving differences and disputes through equal consultation.

Amid an economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban’s takeover, the Taliban government seeks to attract Chinese investment in its reserves of minerals such as copper and lithium. The acting foreign minister of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, who is subject to a travel ban by the United Nations Security Council but was given an exemption to visit Islamabad, met with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, and is set to meet with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

China has already invested billions in Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an under-construction network of roads, railways, and ports. The Chinese foreign ministry has expressed interest in investing in Afghanistan, stating that it welcomes Afghanistan’s participation in Belt and Road cooperation and supports Afghanistan’s integration into regional economic cooperation and connectivity.

At the meeting, the three sides pledged to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, with China and Pakistan expressing support for the Taliban-led Afghan government to strengthen capacity building to deal with “terrorist” actors. The Taliban in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Taliban, known as TTP, are separate groups but share an ideology. The frequency of attacks has increased since last year after the TTP revoked a Taliban-brokered ceasefire and peace talks with the government in Islamabad collapsed.

China also wants to see a more stable security landscape in Afghanistan before beginning investment projects in the country. Afghanistan stressed that it would not allow any armed group to use its territory for activities against China and Pakistan. Qin called for coordination and cooperation mechanisms among Afghanistan’s neighbors within the regional multilateral framework.

Zardari and Muttaqi emphasized the significance of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan cooperation to regional peace and prosperity. They pledged to actively promote trilateral cooperation, formulate a roadmap for cooperation in politics, security, and economy, safeguard the common interests of the three countries, and achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, bringing benefits to the people of the three neighbors and other countries in the region.

Finally, China and Pakistan made it clear at the meeting that they oppose interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, illegal unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan, and all acts that undermine regional peace and stability.