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China's headline grabbing pledge of $31 million to Afghanistan fails to materialise

China's headline
New Delhi: The Taliban-ruled Afghanistan received the first batch of assistance from China only on September 30. But this is only a small part of what was promised about a month ago. While in early September, China pledged 200 million yuan -- about $31 million aid which includes food items and medical supplies along with Covid-19 vaccines, the much-needed financial assistance is yet to reach the Afghan coffers.

On September 26, Wang Yu, Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, tweeted, "Met with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi. Chinese leaders announced to speed up the assistance of 200 million yuan materials to Afghanistan. They are here soon. Economic sanctions must be lifted. Afghanistan foreign reserves should be owned by and used for the people."

Clearly, whatever aid has reached Afghanistan is barely enough to provide any substantial relief to the war-torn country.

An analyst India Narrative spoke to said that China's 'big bang aid promises' often do not translate into real action. "Much of it remains on paper or just an announcement," the analyst said.

Afghanistan banks have virtually dried up. "There is no cash in the system as almost all of it has been withdrawn.. while that cash is being circulated, there isn't any further addition as there is no economic activity now," he said.

The late Shakti Sinha, Director, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Policy Research and International Studies, MS University, had told India Narrative in an exclusive interview that China lacks the required scale and wherewithal to support Afghanistan at this critical juncture.

"China does not have the kind of wherewithal required to support Afghanistan at this point. Beijing too is going through its own economic problems, debt levels have risen, therefore it is way beyond China to rescue Afghanistan," Sinha had said.

While China has expressed its interest in extending its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan, there is no blueprint of actual investments. "Will China invest? That is the big question. I believe it will not and even if it does, these are long-term projects which take time to generate the desired results," the analyst said.

Asia Times in a recent report said unless China, Russia or other foreign donors come to the financial rescue, the Taliban could soon preside over a full-blown financial meltdown at a time many areas of the war-torn nation are teetering towards famine.

"China is more cautious than you might think," former acting Governor of the Da Afghanistan Bank-Ajmal Ahmady, the country's former Central Bank Governor, told American think tank, Atlantic Council.

In fact, as a Minister of Commerce, when Ahmady attended a conference on the ongoing BRI in 2019-2020, he found his Chinese interlocutors were hesitant to build on their existing investments in Afghanistan.

The former Central Bank Governor said that he would expect that same framework to apply now. "Perhaps they'll make promises to invest large amounts -- but the actual implementation of those, I think, is a long time coming," the Atlantic Council quoted Ahmady as saying.—IANS