BEIJING — Central Asian states meeting in Beijing this week say they want a role in stabilizing Afghanistan after most US combat troops leave at the end of 2014, with China’s economic juggernaut leading the charge.
The war-torn nation’s future is expected to feature prominently in discussions by leaders of the six nations that make up the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The bloc, which includes China, Russia, and four Central Asian states, seeks closer security and economic ties among its members, most prominently through regular meetings and joint military exercises targeting separatists, religious extremists and drug traffickers.
In comments published Wednesday in the ruling Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily, Chinese President Hu Jintao outlined a broad plan for the SCO’s future role as the region’s pre-eminent grouping, while firmly rejecting outside meddling.
“We will continue to follow the concept that regional affairs should be managed by countries in the region, that we should guard against shocks from turbulence outside the region, and should play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction,” Hu said.
How they plan to do so remains a question. The SCO has yet to declare a unified strategy on Afghanistan and shows little sign of filling the void left by the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces.
Dominated by the Russia and China, the SCO is widely seen as useful to them as a foil to US influence in Central Asia.
Underscoring close relations between Beijing and Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin told China’s vice president on Wednesday that the sides were committed to boosting cooperation between their militaries.
Warming ties between China and Russia have counterbalanced US influence and shielded Syria from international moves to halt its crackdown on a 15-month uprising. Despite that, Russia and fellow SCO member nations Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are doing their part to ensure an orderly withdrawal, having agreed to allow the reverse transport of alliance equipment after Pakistan shut down southern supply routes six months ago. — AP