The Taliban’s political office head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar led a delegation of senior representatives from the Qatar office in talks over the past two days.
The Taliban have not officially offered any comment on the visit but sources close to the Taliban office told Daily Times that the visit was part of the efforts to brief key stakeholders on what they had been discussing with the American chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Qatar. The Taliban earlier visited Moscow and held talks with Russian officials and also met senior Afghan political leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai.
The Taliban visited China ahead of a new round of talks with Khalilzad, which is thought to be crucial as both sides are likely to press for finalising a peace deal.
Both sides have held six rounds of talks since October and claimed progress, but failed to strike a deal, which is a source of frustration among the war-weary Afghans.
Experts believe that China could play a key role in Afghan reconciliation process because of its policy of non-interference in Afghanistan.
Pak-China Institute Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said China’s role was pivotal and positive on the Afghan peace process, as China alone, among all regional and extra-regional powers, did not carry any historical ‘extra-baggage’ on Afghanistan.
“And China has high stakes too, as peace in Afghanistan will promote the connectivity and cooperation being offered by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of President Xi Jinping, of CPEC is the flagship and pilot project. There is also close coordination between Pakistan and China on Afghanistan,” Mushahid told Daily Times on Monday.
Zoon Ahmed Khan, a research fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said on Monday that China could play a key role in the Afghan peace process as its foreign policy was basically of non-intervention. Talking to Daily Times from Beijing, she said China also favoured that Afghans should have ownership of all affairs, including the peace process, and they had the right to determine their future.
She said China wanted to get all stakeholders on board, facilitating each and every one of them. “They will engage the Taliban, the Afghan government and neighbouring countries that have impact or influence in Afghanistan,” Zoon Khan said.
Afghan analyst Zakir Jalaly said talks between the Taliban and the US had entered a “sensitive phase” and the Taliban had stepped up their regional diplomacy like Khalilzad’s visits to regional countries.
“The most significant aspect of the Taliban’s visit is they pay visits to those countries that are considered rivals of the US. The Taliban seek trust of the regional countries and at the same time want to mount pressure on the US with their growing relations with Russia, China and Iran,” Jalaly told Daily Times from Kabul on Monday.
Beijing has on a number of occasions offered to host talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government if all sides agreed to such a role.
China had hosted the Taliban and Afghan government officials in Urumqi, capital of the western region of Xinjiang, in 2015. Pakistan had facilitated the 2015 meeting.