Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, said on Monday, that Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan should work together to extend China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to Afghanistan. Over video conference,  he spoke of “four-party cooperation” to overcome the Covid-19 crisis and work on other projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The video conference, supposedly organized to discuss the Coronavirus pandemic, comes at a time when India-China relations are worsening day by day. It was joined by Pakistan’s foreign and economic ministers, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Khushro Bakhtiar, Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali and Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Hanif Atmar.

Yi called for cooperation to, “actively promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the trans-Himalayan three-dimensional interconnectivity network, support the extension of [CPEC] to Afghanistan, and further release the regional interconnection dividend”.

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He released another statement on Monday, calling for the four nations to give, “full play to geographic advantages, strengthen exchanges and connections between the four countries and Central Asian countries, and maintain regional peace and stability”.

While it is unprecedented for China to call for such inter-nation cooperation in the area without involving India, the move fits the current thrust of Chinese foreign policy.

Citing the example of “iron brother” ties between Islamabad and Beijing, Yi called for Nepal and Afghanistan to cooperate with them in order to counter the pandemic.

Yi also indicated that Beijing would look at a more permanent cooperation mechanism with the South Asian trifecta, rather than a temporary pandemic relief partnership.

The meeting was an attempt to legitimize Beijing’s narrative of a more involved presence in a war-stricken Afghanistan’s. Nepal used it to signal its increasingly close ties with China, amid a hostile shift in Indian relations.

Wang called on the four nations to work together to make arrangements for epidemic prevention, economic revitalization and personnel exchanges. Under the rubric of anti-epidemic cooperation, the nations should open “fast channels” and “green channels” for personnel and logistics as soon as possible, as well, according to Yang. They should also strengthen joint prevention and control in border areas, and frame jointly recognised standard operating procedures for epidemic notification, prevention, management and control, while firmly promoting the BRI, and the resumption of key collaborative projects. He also called upon them to maintain stability in supply lines and engineer new growth in the digital sector.

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