The Western media is notoriously focused on highlighting death and destruction in Afghanistan. Whether it is reporting the latest military casualty figures or the latest suicide attack in an urban area violence, murder and terrorism is never far from the surface. One area that gets very little focus is the role of China, that great, silent power, in a region that they border.
It would seem that China have very little involvement in the wars of the Western Democracies but if you scratch the surface there they are...involved, working, silently building their connections through trade, business deals, and most crucially infrastructure development. China does not tend to do diplomacy through the media and moral pronouncements. This has been noted before with regards to its continued involvement in pariah states like Sudan. However the same is true of their involvement in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Silently the Chinese go about their business, courting favour with the leaders of Af-Pak. Islamabad is full of Chinese restaurants where beer is freely sold, something similar is also happening in Kabul. In the northern areas of Pakistan, around Gilgit, Chinese engineers wander around fixing and maintaining the wondrous Karakoram Highway.
Recently we have seen another example of this growing influence in Afghanistan. On the 22nd of September The GIRoA and China Metallurgical Corporation Group formally signed an agreement to construct a railway corridor in Afghanistan. The corridor will extend from Aynak Copper Mine in Lowgar Province to the eastern Torkham border town in Nangarhar and Hairatan border town in the northern Balkh Province. A specialised company will conduct an extensive survey and study process, which is expected to take upwards of two years, prior to the commencement of any construction.
So whilst the USA and UK continue to fight insurgents, and carry out pointless impact assessments for crop irrigation and the like, the Chinese are going about building transportation links to the central areas of Afghanistan that are known to contain numerous minerals and metals. It is debatable whether this project will go ahead due to the increasing insurgency in the areas that this survey will take place but you have to give the Chinese credit...they certainly know how to the play the game of currying favour with their strategic neighbours.