China downplays India overtaking it as the most populous country
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin

Beijing: A worried China on Thursday called on Pakistan and the Taliban-led interim government in Afghanistan to resolve their “concerns” through talks after Pakistani air raids reportedly killed 47 Afghans, prompting Kabul to lodge a “strong demarche” to Islamabad.

“Afghanistan and Pakistan are close neighbours with traditional friendship with China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here when asked about the recent border skirmishes between close allies sparked by recurring terror attacks on Pakistani troops allegedly from across the borders in Afghanistan.

“I believe the countries can properly settle their concerns through dialogue and consultation and jointly maintain peace and tranquility,” Wang said, declining to elaborate on Beijing’s apprehensions over its trilateral initiative of forming a China, Pakistan, Afghanistan alliance.

The Pakistani air raids on Afghanistan came about a fortnight after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held the third meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan comprising Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan at Tunxi in China on March 30-31 for which interim Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was invited.

Wang later held a meeting of Foreign Ministers of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan which was attended by the then Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Despite the “close ties” China and Pakistan are yet to recognise the Afghan Taliban’s interim government.

The widening differences between Pakistan and the Taliban in the meantime resulting in violent clashes was seen as a setback for Beijing and Islamabad efforts to gain control over the volatile Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US troops.

China is also eyeing the lucrative mines and oil deposits in Afghanistan.

For its part, Pakistan was saddled with recurring terror attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) based in Afghanistan leading to many casualties for Pakistan military in the troubled tribal Waziristan region.

Islamabad is angry that the Taliban is not cracking down hard on the TTP despite its repeated requests.

The situation turned worse on April 16 when the Taliban accused Pakistan of launching cross-border military raids inside Afghanistan resulting in deaths of 47 Afghans.

The Pakistani air raids prompted a massive demonstration in Khost in which protestors chanted anti-Pakistan slogans, according to reports from Kabul.

Officials said the military actions prompted the Taliban interim Foreign Minister Muttaqi to summon Pakistani ambassador in Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan to his office and lodge a “strong d marche” or official protest note to him.

“The Afghan side condemned the recent attacks on Khost and Kunar provinces, stressing prevention of such acts,” Muttaqi’s office said in a statement.

It warned that military violations by Pakistan would deteriorate bilateral ties and allow “antagonists to misuse the situation leading to undesired consequences.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement, later stressed the need for resolving bilateral problems through political means.

“IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) calls on the Pakistani side not to test the patience of Afghans on such issues and not repeat the same mistake again, otherwise it will have bad consequences,” Mujahid warned.

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