Ananth Krishnan Beijing, November 26, 2014 | UPDATED 20:05 IST
Picture for representation. Photo: ReutersJust as Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani told SAARC leaders on Wednesday he would not allow a “proxy war” on Afghan soil, the country’s former intelligence chief has warned China about the dangers of ignoring the terror threat emanating from its “all-weather” ally Pakistan.
While China has increasingly expressed concern about the presence in Pakistan of members of banned Xinjiang extremist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Beijing has in the past shielded Islamabad from international pressure – especially from India – on the terror issue.
On Wednesday, Beijing received its clearest word of warning yet that its current strategy of ignoring other groups in Pakistan – and merely focusing on the ETIM – would not shield it from the rising threat of terrorism in the region.
Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate and a key figure in the country’s security establishment over the past decade, called on China to “pay attention to the whole picture” and ask the question of why terrorists, including those from Xinjiang, had managed to find “sanctuaries across the border” in Pakistan.
“We understand China is very, very interested on the activities of ETIM, [but] for Afghanistan, it is one corner of the problem, it is not the entire problem,” Saleh said to a question from India Today, while in Beijing for a conference on China and India’s role in Afghanistan organised by the Royal United Services Institute.
“The question is ETIMâ€¦. did not go there by themselves to establish a base and start from scratch,” he said. “If you analyse it, the very basic question you ask is who invited them to that region, who told them that they can come there, get sanctuary, food, weapons, training and be helped. That infrastructure has to be dismantled.”
He said China “should not get satisfied by finding new [ETIM] names”. “If they go deeper and look at support infrastructure, they will automatically realise that [ETIM] is part of a network which operates in the region”. “We would like China to pay attention to whole
picture,” he added, to include other groups that were “fighting the Constitution” in Afghanistan and “have sanctuaries across the border”.
One of the issues that emerged during the conference attended by retired officials and strategic experts was the different attitudes of India and China to the Taliban in Afghanistan. China’s general view was that the Taliban, as “a part of Afghan society”, should be a part of the reconciliation process, not ruling out a deal.
Saleh hinted at Pakistani efforts to use the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to destabilise the country. “The question is why is the [Pakistan-Afghanistan] border so uncontrollable,” he asked. “If there are truly 100,000 Pakistani troops on the other side, why do these groups survive? It is because when the Pakistani army does operate, it is selective. Selectivity creates space which is exploited”. He warned that a Taliban-controlled country would “neither be in Afghan control or Pakistani control”, and a danger for China and the region.