The China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was held in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 15. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi attended the second tripartite meeting on strategic dialogue, anti-terrorism and pragmatic cooperation. Under the “three-plus-one” cooperation model, the three neighboring countries are one party, while other countries or international organizations constitute the other party.
The “three-plus-one” model, launched in May 2017, follows other multilateral cooperation mechanisms such as the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Tajikistan to combat terrorism, and Afghanistan-Pakistan-US-China Quadrilateral Coordination Group. Although they all played a role in promoting Afghanistan’s peace process, the “three-plus-one” model forms the core of cooperation because China, Afghanistan and Pakistan share similar interests. What are the advantages of the “three-plus-one” model over other mechanisms?
First, China is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council that borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the UN Charter has entrusted the UN body with maintaining global peace and security. With China’s influence, the Afghanistan issue will gain more attention and support at the UN level.
Second, the model may urge the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)-Afghanistan Contact Group to make more proactive policies. China and Pakistan are full members of the SCO, and Afghanistan has received observer status. This will help the Afghanistan crisis acquire center stage within the SCO. The 13th meeting of the SCO National Security Council Secretaries in May noted that stabilizing Afghanistan was a highly important factor for preserving security in the SCO region. They urged the international community to enhance cooperation for resolving the Afghanistan issue politically, creating favorable conditions for the country’s sustained economic development and ensuring the well-being of the nation.
Third, the “three-plus-one” model can provide more favorable conditions for Afghanistan’s development. Development is an essential condition for a country’s long-term peace. But according to the World Bank’s statistics, food insecurity in Afghanistan climbed to 45 percent in 2016-17; more than four out of five Afghan adults (aged 25 and above) have not completed any level of education, and 80 percent of employment is vulnerable and insecure.
As a country along the Belt and Road, Afghanistan can develop with China’s help. Besides, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) not only provides a cooperation platform for China and Pakistan, but also offers a chance for Afghanistan to integrate with the world.
Although there are problems to solve, the speeches of the three foreign ministers show that the “three-plus-one” model operates well and has huge potential. Rabbani and Qureshi both said that the Afghan and Pakistani sides will maintain the momentum of improving bilateral relations and sincerely implementing the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. The two sides said they are willing to work with China to expand trilateral cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative and push forward trilateral cooperation on anti-terrorism so as to jointly safeguard peace, stability and prosperity in the three countries and the region.
As the leading country of the “three-plus-one” model, China will fully support it. For China, it might be a good choice to use Afghanistan issue to expand China-US mutual interest. Afghanistan issue has played an important role in the normalization of China-US relations. Through the “three-plus-one” model, China can enhance its role in Afghanistan’s peace process and strengthen cooperation with other major powers.
To attain these goals, China may start building the road from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Kabul. This will connect Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and facilitate the development of a China-Pakistan-Afghanistan economic corridor on the basis of the CPEC, boosting Afghanistan’s development and providing wider cooperation space for the “three-plus-one” model.