Both New Delhi and Beijing share common concerns on stability, as also on terrorism

India and China here on Thursday held their first dialogue on Afghanistan, agreeing to more closely their coordinate their positions in the lead up to the 2014 withdrawal of NATO forces.

Chinese officials said both sides had reaffirmed their backing for an Afghan-led reconciliation process.

Common concerns

India and China share common concerns on ensuring stability in the country, particularly in light of their sizeable investments, and also on terrorism. Both countries last week in Beijing held consultations on counterterrorism, during which the situation in Afghanistan is thought to have figured prominently.

The Indian delegation in Thursday’s talks was led by Yash Sinha, Additional Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) at the Ministry of External Affairs. The Chinese side was represented by Luo Zhaohui, the Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Mr. Sinha also met with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhai Jun following the dialogue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters here.

“The two sides agreed the Afghanistan issue concerns regional security and stability,” Ms. Hua said. “China and India are two important counties in the region, and consultations on Afghanistan help them to coordinate positions, deepen cooperation and contribute to early settlement of the issue.”

Reiterate support

Ms. Hua said both countries “reiterated their support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, and their commitment to working with regional countries and the international community to help Afghanistan achieve objectives of peace and stability, independence and development.”

The dialogue between China and India follows a number of recent bilateral and multilateral talks on Afghanistan, indicating the heightened engagement in the lead up to 2014. India, China and Russia held trilateral consultations in Moscow recently, which were followed by three-way talks among China, Russia and Pakistan in Beijing.

Zhao Gancheng, a South Asia scholar at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said it was important for China, India and Russia “to closely watch the situation because the development of Afghanistan will exert enormous impact on all three parties.” “What the final outcome will be after 2014 is not clear,” he told The Hindu in a recent interview. “Pakistan is also a crucial player post-2014. In Pakistan, the terrorism situation is very serious and a lot of extremist forces are very active. Putting all of this together, it is important for China, India and other countries to think about what we are going to do and what kind of cooperative mechanisms will be built up.”