Addressing the G-20 extraordinary summit on Afghanistan earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a four-way engagement with Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Attending the summit on behalf of President Xi Jinping, Wang Yi urged the need for continuing humanitarian support to the Afghan people. He said humanitarian assistance, corona vaccines and medical supplies should be continued ‘while respecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.’ He called for engaging all Afghan groups and supporting the people of Afghanistan to enable them to ‘independently choose their development path.’ However, he urged the international community to demonstrate zero tolerance to terrorism. Without naming any particular country, the Chinese Foreign Minister emphasized the need to end ‘double standards and selective anti-terror efforts.’ Yi underlined the need for synergizing the entire Afghanistan-related mechanism of the international community and said that the United Nations must serve as the main channel for promoting peace in Afghanistan and providing humanitarian assistance to its people. There is no denying the fact that ever since their ascendency in Kabul, the Taliban have not taken even a single step, which can convince the world community that they have really changed their behaviour and become “savvy.” As their government is far from the much-demanded inclusivity, the plight of ethnic and religious minorities continues. Women are deprived of education. Terrorist groups, like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are not only present in Afghanistan but have also carried out several terrorist acts in the country. While in the previous stint, the Taliban had not delivered on other fronts, law and order under their sway were exemplary. While in their previous stint (1996-2001), the Taliban had not delivered on the economic and other fronts, law and order under their sway were exemplary. But not this time. Though the IS-K or Daesh carried out several big terrorist attacks and suicide blasts in Kabul, Kunduz, Kandahar, Herat and other cities in recent weeks, it did ring alarm bells across Central Asia and particularly in China when it claimed using a suicide attacker from Uyghur region of southwestern China in the Kunduz attack. There are also reports that IS-K is providing training to ETIM terrorists inside Afghanistan. However, the prevailing economic crisis and the lurking humanitarian disaster have caused apprehensions across the world. The participants of the recently-held G-20 summit agreed to work together to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan “even if it means having to coordinate efforts with Taliban.” Soon after the induction of the Taliban government, the US froze $9 billion financial assets of Afghanistan while IMF and World Bank suspended the country’s access to their resources. With the flow of almost 70 per cent component of foreign aid in Afghanistan’s annual budget already dried out, the Taliban are left with little resources to run the country. Last month, the UN donor conference enlisted $1.3 billion assistance, including $64 million by the US. At the G-20 conference, the European Union also announced to provide $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. China has also provided a $30 million grant to the Taliban government. Earlier, World Food Programme (WFP) and World Bank also announced grants for the most vulnerable segments of the Afghan people. However, the humanitarian situation is grievous as unemployment is rampant, economic and business activities have come to a standstill and government servants are without salary months. According to estimates, half of Afghanistan’s 40 million population is facing hunger. Medical supplies are also very short. The WFP recently reported that the Afghan people are being forced to sell their household items to purchase food. While the Taliban’s capacity to mitigate the sufferings of the common Afghans is seriously under question, political hesitation at the international level is also restraining humanitarian assistance. Taliban’s behaviour towards foreign NGOs and their workers is also discouraging the international community. Just this last week, the Taliban reportedly tortured a young man in Kabul for collaborating with NGOs. Taliban have been vying with the regional and world countries, particularly Russia, China and the Central Asian states, to recognize their government and provide the much needed financial support but to no avail. On the sideline of the Moscow Format meeting in Moscow last week, the Taliban leaders also met Indian officials and sought economic assistance but New Delhi has not yet responded positively. Besides hesitation, political rivalries among the world and regional countries also serve as a big impediment in the way of humanitarian support for the Afghan people. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan should have served as a blessing for China as a stumbling hurdle in the way of its economic and political projects in the region had been removed. But the removal of the United States from Afghanistan has rather multiplied apprehensions of Beijing. Afghanistan provides an important geo-economic link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Besides its wish to extend CEPAK to Afghanistan and up to Central Asia, it also has signed a $450 billion package under BRI with Iran. China’s interest in Afghanistan’s lithium, copper and other minerals is also intact. The most disturbing probability for China regarding Afghanistan is the perceived presence of ETIM terrorists in that country. IS-K’s claim of using Mohammad al Uyghury, an ethnic Uyghur terrorist from China’s Xinjiang province, as a suicide attacker in the blast at a Shiite mosque in the northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan has authenticated Beijing’s fear of dissemination of terrorism from Afghanistan. Russia’s apprehensions about the US are also an open secret. Addressing the SCO conference in Dushanbe last month, President Putin said that post-conflict rebuilding of Afghanistan was the responsibility of the USA and NATO. He urged Washington to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets. These bitter realities apart, the world powers are under obligation to act responsibly in the changed environment post the US withdrawal from Afghanistan to enhance global collaboration. The proposal of the Chinese Foreign Minister for synchronising the mechanism of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and handling the threat of terrorism in that country ought to be grabbed as a test case for the much desired international convergences. The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.