China says it agrees with Afghanistan on politics

BEIJING: A top Chinese official reassured visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai today that Beijing won’t take a position when it comes to Afghan politics.

The remarks by top lawmaker Wu Bangguo reflect China’s policy of ignoring the politics of neighbouring states as long as they don’t infringe on Chinese interests.

“I don’t see any differences between us on political issues,” Wu, the Communist Party’s second-highest ranking official, told Karzai at the start of a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

“We have made good progress in our practical

cooperation. I’m sure your visit will give a great boost to

the bilateral relationship,”

Wu said.

Karzai faces criticism at home and among some in

the West over corruption, cronyism, and electoral fraud that are blamed for stymieing development, fueling

crime and driving some Afghans into the arms of the Taliban insurgency. Wu’s comments seemed to ensure that such issues won’t be raised in his talks with Chinese leaders, who oversee a one-party communist state that brooks no internal dissent or outside criticism.

While China has no troops in Afghanistan - where Karzai relies on US and NATO forces to prop up his weak government against the Taliban - its proximity and booming economy make it a valuable partner for the war-battered country.

China is already a major source of consumer goods for the country and while two-way trade totalled just $155 million in 2008, according to Chinese figures, it appears to be growing quickly.

A Chinese company has also pledged $3 billion to tap one of the world’s largest unexploited copper reserves at Aynak in Afghanistan, and is favoured to win the rights to iron deposits at Hajigak when bids are considered this year.

Karzai, traveling with a delegation of Cabinet officials and business figures, on Wednesday oversaw the signing of three agreements boosting economic ties.

The trip to Beijing also allows Karzai to further establish himself as a regional political figure with stature and independence.

Karzai has participated as an observer in summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a grouping of Central Asian nations dominated by China and Russia that aims to challenge US dominance. He has also cemented ties with India to balance the influence of neighbouring Pakistan, with which Afghanistan has an acrimonious relationship. And earlier this month, Karzai hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used his brief visit to lob insults at the United States and argue that international forces in Afghanistan would only lead to more civilian deaths.

Karzai called Iran — with which Afghanistan shares a long land border — “our brother nation” with whom it had excellent relations.