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Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): Land-locked Afghanistan is in talks with China to rekindle ancient Silk Road trade routes in order to help its dwindling economy.

Taliban's Industry and commerce minister, Nooruddin Azizi on Monday urged China to speed up efforts for the opening of the Silk Route, reported Ariana News.

Azizi said that the Wakhan Corridor or the Silk Road can increase the level of trade between the two countries and become a reliable route for the transit of goods.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has announced its preparations for the opening of this corridor and asks the respected authorities of the People's Republic of China to speed up the process of opening this route," Azizi said.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 150 countries and international organizations. It seeks to rekindle ancient Silk Road trade routes linking China with Europe and Africa, reported Ariana NewsIn September, the Afghan Minister of Industry and Commerce said that Afghanistan should be included in the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, which is a central part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"In talks, we had with China, it was mentioned that we should partner with China in the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor and other programs that China has at the international level," Nooruddin Azizi said in an interview with China's CGTN.

China's policy shift towards Afghanistan is a "New Great Game" in the region to use the country as a stepping-stone for broader regional strategic, economic and political endeavors and moving towards the realignment of the region's balance of power and hegemony, experts say.

Since the departure of US forces a year ago, said London-based NGO The Democracy Forum (TDF) President Lord Bruce, China appears to be developing a five-pronged engagement policy towards Afghanistan: a cautious but pragmatic acceptance of the Taliban's dominance; preventing the re-emergence of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorism; facilitating an inclusive political process; pursuing humanitarian goals; all while pointedly shaming the US and its allies for their abdication of responsibility.

From the Chinese perspective, there are two fundamental objectives that are important vis-a-vis Afghanistan: domestic stability, which includes maintaining control over Xinjiang and ensuring that Afghanistan does not act as a staging ground for Uyghur militants; and trying to protect the substantial Chinese foreign direct investments in regional countries, especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

But violence against Chinese interests from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has increased as China's footprint in the region has expanded, and while it is risk-acceptant, it has reacted, in order to convey a message.

The main focus for this is the idea of a 'CPEC-plus', to which Afghanistan is central, having links to landlocked Central Asian countries, which can use Afghanistan as a route to Pakistan.

However, despite China's hope for 'CPEC-plus', there are substantial emerging tensions between the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, with reports of Taliban attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and on politicians and civilians in the SWAT region.

In terms of investments, China is not so interested in copper in Afghanistan now, as copper prices have fallen in recent months. It is more interested in lithium, used in computers and mobile phones, and in cobalt and nickel. (ANI)

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