By Akhlaq Ahmed
China seems to be calculating how shrewdly it can exploit United States President Donald Trump’s New Year’s 4 AM tweet accusing Pakistan of paying his country in “lies and deceit” in return for US $ 33 billion, Pakistan has received from the US in the past 15 years in the name of fighting terrorism.
Two reactions from Beijing to Donald Trump’s tweet are noteworthy; one came from the Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately after the tweet and the second from its tabloid, the Global Times. In the first reaction on January 2nd, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang clearly assured Pakistan not to be nervous by US aid suspension. He said the US action would not affect China’s determination to invest in Pakistan. Rubbishing President Trump’s charge that Pakistan provides safe havens for terrorists, he said: “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifices for the fight against terrorism and has made outstanding contribution to the global cause of counter-terrorism. The international community should acknowledge that …… we stand ready to promote and deepen our all round co-operation so as to bring benefits to the two sides”.
In the second reaction, an article in the Global Times suggested that China should take advantage by the present distrust and hostility between the US and Pakistan. It said China should pay more attention to economic assistance to Pakistan and closer ties with it “amid hostility from the US”. The article said Pakistan would be justified if it sought a new geopolitical calculus that covers China and Russia. “In these circumstances it makes perfect sense for Pakistan to shift its foreign policy focus towards China and Russia.”
A section of public opinion in Pakistan has already been supporting such an alliance to rid Pakistan of the US pressures and domination. Their avid love for the US in the 1950s and 1960s, besides for its dollars and weapons, was because of its anti-India stance on Kashmir. The US remained dear to it till 2001 when New York and Washington faced terror attacks by those who had a big bank of supporters and sympathisers in Pakistan. It was then that the US and the west woke up to India’s continuous protests against Pak-engineered terrorism in Kashmir. They now started a crusade against global terrorism and acknowledged India was a victim of Pakistan-supported insurgency in Kashmir and terror elsewhere in the country. The US gave India a special role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan ignoring Pakistan’s then Army President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s pleas that India should be kept out of Afghanistan. However, he joined the US-led War against global terrorism without a squeak. In return his country received 33 billion US dollar in the past 15 years.
Unnerved by stern US warning that Pakistan must decide whether you-are-with-us-or-against-us, Gen. Musharraf meekly led his country into the US-led coalition against global terrorism without making an issue of the ouster of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan or induction of India into the war-ravaged country for reconstruction. President Trump in his New Year tweet said in the past 15 years the successive US governments “foolishly” paid Pakistan 33 billion dollars and that Pakistan considered American leaders “foolish”. These are very crude and self-disregarding expressions. But they are true. Despite its 64-year old alliance with Pakistan, the US never seems to have made a serious study of Pakistan’s mental conditioning by its commitment to a sectarian from Islam and its domestic and external impacts. Americans’ very limited knowledge only tells them that this is a country which can be used at a short notice for a payment and dropped at will. It seems Americans don’t want to know anything else beyond this.
Had Americans understood Pakistan’s commitment to a sectarian from of Islam they would never made the foolish mistake of forcing it into the Coalition against global terrorism while letting the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters flee to Pakistan for shelter or safe havens in tribal areas. At the US Army’s behest the Pakistani forces made a show of searching for them in the tribal areas but from the account of the local people to Urdu BBC in 2002-03 it was clear the Pak Army were really protecting then by telling them in advance to move out from areas where a search operation as scheduled. Of course, the US Government and the media have often accused Pakistan of protecting the people against whom the Coalition, including Pakistan, was supposed to be fighting. Looking back it is clear the US laid a trap for itself by taking Pakistan into the coalition without ascertaining Pakistan’s commitment to the coalition’s goal. As of today there looks no way the US can get out of it respectably. That is causing frustration. President Trump’s New Year tweet was an expression of Americans’ accumulated frustration.
This tweet and Pakistanis’ reaction have boosted China’s hope of forming an alliance in this region comprising itself, Russia and Pakistan. If it materialises, efforts may be made to rope in Afghanistan too. A move towards this end has been made on December 26 when China hosted a trilateral meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and its own in Beijing. At this meeting China offered Afghanistan to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China may be sure that if Afghanistan joins the CPEC it would not be difficult to drag it into the alliance.
So far the CPEC has remained China’s dream project. It is still not sure how keen is Russia for this alliance, its complaints against the US notwithstanding. Russia may not have forgotten its bitter experience with China’s friendship in the 1960s. It cannot close its eyes to China’s selfish ambition to because world’s top military and economic power using countries like Pakistan as a ladder. It has been China’s ambition to replace US dollar with its own Yuan. After long resistance Pakistan has succumbed to China’s presence after President Trump’s tweet. Now China and Pakistan will use Yuan to settle bilateral trade.
As said above the three nations’ alliance is yet a dream project. It remains to be seen how China’s all-weather friend, Pakistan, gathers enough courage to uproot itself from the 64-year old relations with the United States to be completely in China’s camp.
(The author is a geo-political analyst.)