China on Thursday cautiously reacted to the Pakistani military’s air attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 47 civilians and leaving two dozen wounded in the border region of Khost and Kunar. In response to a question at the regular press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China believes that two countries can properly settle each other’s concerns through dialogues and consultations and jointly maintain regional peace and tranquility in the region.

Saturday’s air strikes also triggered protests in Khost and some other provinces condemning Pakistan and shouting anti-Pakistan slogans as tension and distrust between the two neighbours further deepened. Spokesman of Afghanistan’s Taliban govt has issued a warning to Pakistan saying this is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side,” the Taliban spokesperson said. Wang said, Afghanistan and Pakistan are close neighbors with traditional friendship with China as China had been trying to actively engage with Taliban immediately after Taliban captured Kabul last year.

Experts say that Pakistan’s attack in Afghanistan and retaliatory warning by Taliban has increased tensions in the region. It is a setback to the Taliban government’s campaign seeking international recognition and also a setback to China’s efforts to engage with Taliban specially after recent meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors in Tunxi and Chinese FM Wang Yi’s visit to Kabul. It is a matter of concern for China especially when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Kabul last month had expressed China’s willingness to extend China- Pakistan cooperation to Afghanistan as well. However, Wang disregarded these assessments.

Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen along the two countries’ 2,700km shared border since the Taliban seized power last year, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from Afghan soil. The Taliban deny harboring Pakistani militants. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said seven Pakistan soldiers were killed in North Waziristan district on Thursday by “terrorists operating from Afghanistan” as Islamabad urged Kabul to act against militants launching attacks from Afghan soil.

China, with the help of Pakistan, has been urging other countries to engage with Taliban rulers of Afghanistan who captured Kabul by force after US withdrawal and has been ignoring international calls for forming an inclusive government, adopting a moderate foreign policy and respecting human rights especially women rights. China is eyeing Afghanistan’s mineral reserves and extending its BRI projects in the country and depends a lot on Pakistan to influence the religiously driven Afghan government. However, after the new leadership took over in Pakistan, dynamics have changed between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani leadership – both civilian and military.