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Diplomacy

For the First Time, China's Special Envoy Holds Talks with India on Afghanistan

The first-ever trip by a Chinese special envoy on Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong, to India is important as it recognises India as an important stakeholder in Afghanistan.

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New Delhi: For the first time, China’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong, arrived in India to hold discussions with Indian officials on the security situation and humanitarian aid in the war-ravaged nation.

Official sources told The Wire that the Chinese side requested the meeting. This is the first-ever trip by a Chinese special envoy on Afghanistan to India. It also marks the second visit by a senior Chinese official to India this year, after the visit of the Chinese foreign minister in March.

There has been no official announcement about the visit from the Indian side. The only notification about the trip was a tweet by the Chinese diplomat on Thursday night.

Yue tweeted that he exchanged views with MEA’s joint secretary JP Singh. “Both agreed to encourage engagement, enhance dialogue and give positive energy for Afghan peace and stability,” he posted on his Twitter account.

Sources claimed that the meeting was significant as it recognised that India was an important stakeholder in Afghanistan, despite Beijing’s close ties with Pakistan. Further, officials stated that it was also perhaps an acknowledgement of New Delhi’s decision to send a technical team to be stationed in Kabul.

The discussions revolved around the security situation in Afghanistan and the requirement of humanitarian assistance, sources added, without giving more details.

While this is the first visit by a Chinese special envoy to New Delhi, India and China have previously worked on a joint project in Afghanistan.

At the April 2018 informal summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the “possibility of cooperation between India and China in Afghanistan”.

Later that year, the two Asian neighbours launched a joint capacity-building programme for Afghan diplomats. There were at least two rounds of the combined programme, in which chosen Afghan diplomats would travel to India and China to be trained in various subjects in an intensive two-week course.

However, the cooperation came to a grinding halt due to the covid-19 pandemic, followed by the freeze in ties over the military stand-off in eastern Ladakh in 2020.

The differing position on Afghanistan between the two countries was demonstrated with the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. India immediately withdrew all its diplomatic personnel, while China kept its embassy open, highlighting its close interaction with the Taliban leadership over the years.

While China has not formally recognised the Taliban government, it has been active in its outreach to the new authorities in Afghanistan. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi even travelled to Kabul, just before he landed in New Delhi for the first time in two years,

Last November, India organised a Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, but China and Pakistan were the only ones to turn down the invitation. China had claimed that scheduling issues had prevented its representative from participating in the forum.