China has swiftly but surely stepped into the vacuum created by the ignominious American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Utterly dependent on China for its survival, the Taliban regime has provided a ringing endorsement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and wants to be a part of the Belt and Road (BRI) initiative; the first project expected to be taken up is the Peshawar-Kabul road. Added to this is the silence of the Taliban on the situation of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, while it has no similar hesitation when it comes to Jammu and Kashmir.
Since July 2020, China has been hosting a meeting of a subgroup of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) members — all supporters of the BRI — with varied participation, ostensibly to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. A set of four China-led meetings have been held so far with participation at the foreign minister/vice-minister level from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The last such meeting endorsed the establishment of a China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre in Chongqing.