Taliban agree with China and Pakistan to expand BRI in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban have agreed with China and Pakistan to extend the Belt and Road Initiative (BIS) in Afghanistan, potentially attracting billions of dollars to fund infrastructure projects in the sanctions-hit country.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met in Islamabad on Saturday and pledged to work together on Afghanistan’s reconstruction process, including delivering the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor dollars to the Taliban-led nation.
“Both sides agreed to continue their humanitarian and economic assistance to the Afghan people and to strengthen development cooperation in Afghanistan,” according to a joint statement released by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.
Chinese and Pakistani officials have already discussed extending the project to Afghanistan. The cash-strapped Taliban government has said it is ready to participate in the project and the prospect of securing much-needed infrastructure investment.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi traveled to Islamabad to meet his Chinese and Pakistani counterparts and reached an agreement, his deputy spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad said by telephone.
The Taliban also harbored hopes that China would increase investment in the country’s rich resources, estimated at $1 trillion. The government signed its first contract in January with a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin. The Chinese and Pakistani ministers also stressed the need to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets abroad. The Taliban have been barred from accessing about $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held overseas, fearing the funds could be used for terrorist activities.
Washington then agreed to release half of it to support the economy, but suspended it after the Taliban imposed some educational and work restrictions on Afghan women last year.
China, Russia and Iran are among a handful of countries that maintain warm ties with the Taliban. They provided aid to the Taliban, but did not officially recognize the government.


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