China’s maiden opportunity to host the process has provided the impetus to achieve tangible goals. Newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s choice of Beijing as his first destination for a state visit sends a strong signal to the world regarding China’s importance in leading the regional cooperation mechanism on Afghanistan in the post-NATO era. The US State Department welcomed China’s initiative, terming the Istanbul process meeting in Beijing as a real demonstration of China’s commitment to Afghanistan and its role in the region.
The Chinese premier’s emphasis on Afghanistan’s geographical placement connecting South, Central and West Asia, bordering China to the east, being a shining pearl on the ancient Silk Road, reiterates Afghanistan’s unique location where once civilisations met and numerous kingdoms left their indelible mark on history; this echoes the heart of Asia concept. The Fourth Foreign Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process, co-chaired by the foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan, hosting delegates from about 30 nations and regional organisations, concluded with the Beijing Declaration, which formalised the host’s commitment to peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-ravaged Afghanistan. Setting a personal example of benevolence, China immediately allocated a 500 million Renminbi grant to the Afghan government and pledged 1.5 billion Renminbi in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years and the assurance to help train 3,000 professionals in various fields in the next five years.