China's Anti-Terror Coalition Proposal Misbranded as ‘Central Asian NATO’

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China’s proposed counterterrorist consultative body with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan is not a military alliance stylized after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but rather a part of the Eurasian Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China’s Defense Ministry officials told Sputnik on Tuesday.

BEIJING (Sputnik) – On a March 1 visit to Afghanistan, Chinese Chief of People’s Liberation Army General Staff Gen. Fang Fenghui proposed forming a joint mechanism of cooperation with Afghan, Pakistani and Tajik militaries. Western media outlets branded the suggestion as a "Central Asian NATO" claiming to threaten Russia’s influence in the region.

"China consistently opposes the creation of military alliances, we will never participate in such alliances, so we cannot speak about any ‘Central Asian NATO’," Chinese ministry officials said.

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Pakistan holds acceding state status and Afghanistan is an observer state of SCO, so both are limited in multilateral cooperation within the six-member security alliance, including annual or biennial counterterror exercises, the officials explained.

"That is why we decided to create a quadripartite coordination mechanism for defense agencies, this mechanism would become an efficient complement to antiterrorism cooperation in the SCO," they added.

They advanced "China’s, Afghanistan’s, Pakistan’s and Tajikistan’s quadripartite antiterrorist consultation mechanism" as a more suitable term to describe the proposal for cooperation.

"First of all the term ‘alliance’ needs to be clarified as one that is in our opinion not quite accurate. It is not a military alliance – you know, China adheres to the policy of non-alignment and has never entered into military alliances – it would be more correct to talk about a multilateral mechanism for security coordination," ministry officials said.

Addressing speculation of Russian exclusion from the mechanism, the officials named SCO-level cooperation as a backbone in comprehensive Russian-Chinese strategic partnership contributing to regional peace and stability.

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