Afghanistan: Taliban arrests Chinese nationals for smuggling precious stones
Kabul: China has a reputation of looting the very countries it develops economic ties with. Now, it is the turn of Afghanistan to feel the real pinch of Chinese ‘friendship’.
If recent activities of Chinese nationals in Afghanistan are anything to go by, China plans to loot natural resources from the war-ravaged country just as it is doing in neighbouring Pakistan.
However, the Taliban regime in Kabul have launched a crackdown on illegal activities in Afghanistan and the involvement of Chinese citizens in such operations is being exposed.
According to the local Afghan media, five men, including two Chinese nationals, have been arrested by the Taliban for their alleged involvement in the smuggling of an estimated 1,000 metric tons of lithium-containing rocks out of Afghanistan.
The Chinese citizens were allegedly trying to smuggle the valuable stones from Afghanistan to China via Pakistan with the help of their Afghan collaborators.
According to Reporterly, the Chinese nationals were arrested in the frontier town of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.
Reporterly quoted local sources as saying that the confiscated rocks contained p to 30 per cent of lithium and were illegally extracted from the Afghan provinces of Nuristan and Kunar, which lie along the Durand Line with Pakistan.
Taliban intelligence officials have reportedly told Afghan television channels, that the Chinese nationals and their Afghan allies were reportedly trying to smuggle the lithium-rich stones to China via Pakistan.
With China trying to cosy up to the Afghan Taliban in an effort to strengthen its geopolitical standing in the region, Chinese nationals have increasingly come under attack in Afghanistan.
Ties between China and Afghanistan hit a new low since December 12 when a bomb and gun attack claimed by the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) targeted a hotel in Kabul, injured five Chinese nationals.
A few days later another attack targeting China’s interests in Afghanistan took place in Kabul when a bomb exploded outside the Afghan foreign ministry building while a meeting between Taliban and Chinese officials was taking place inside.
These attacks forced China to issue an advisory, asking Chinese citizens to leave Afghanistan.
Since the Afghan Taliban captured Kabul in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US-led NATO force, China has been trying to gain a foothold in Afghanistan.
After the Afghan Taliban re-established its rule in Kabul on August 15, 2021 following two decades of war with the US and NATO, China had expressed its desire for friendly ties with the new rulers of Afghanistan.
According to Al Arabia Post, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had also claimed that they intended to play a constructive role in Afghanistan even as China tried to emerge as a trusted ally of the Afghan Taliban regime similar to Pakistan, Russia, and Iran.
In November last year, Chinese officials had held talks with their Taliban counterpart in an effort to rekindle the ancient Silk Road trade routes in Afghanistan.
Due to the unstable security scenario, China is trying to deal in a cautious and tactful manner with Afghanistan. The Chinese have not implemented any big investment or assistance in Afghanistan, except for limited trade in cheap goods.