At the first trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, China offered to expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Aside from the question of what happens to the acronym (CPAEC? CAPEC?), the offer to extend the US$50 billion project to Afghanistan has raised eyebrows in New Delhi. But Beijing has assured the move has nothing to do with India.
Responding to a question about media reports that the expansion of CPEC was aimed at “encircling” India, creating a sense of unease in New Delhi, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said this was far from the case.
“As [foreign ministery] Wang Yi said yesterday, CPEC is not aimed at any third party,” Hua was quoted as saying on a transcript posted to the foreign ministry’s website. “At the same time we hope it benefits third parties, and the whole region.”
Hua reiterated that the trilateral cooperation was not intended to counter any outside party and that it “shouldn’t be subject to any influence or interference from any outside country.”
China might want to consult with the US on that last point. As a top Russian diplomat noted over the weekend, a growing number of ISIS-linked militants in Afghanistan coexist with continued US military presence. Some experts argue, citing public US policy papers, that Washington is supporting militants in the region specifically to counter growing Chinese influence.
Adding to the mix, Moscow also said that they would like to sit down with the Trump administration to talk cooperation on Afghanistan. India, it seems, is the least of China’s worries when it comes to a “third party” interfering in CPEC.