China is taking Pakistan in its deep embrace through the CPEC, but both realize it is not an easy task. China is investing heavily and is upset that Pakistan is unable to ensure safety for the projects and the route along the CPEC, with Chinese workers being attacked ….reports Dr Sakariya Kareem
Pakistan is miffed with China for not inviting it to BRICS, rebuffing it on Kashmir issue and even tilting towards India on the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. It is unhappy that along with other BRICS countries, China called out Pakistan-based terror bodies in the joint declaration, sending a clear message that it cannot countenance Islamabad’s denial and its defiant postures.
China is taking Pakistan in its deep embrace through the CPEC, but both realize it is not an easy task. China is investing heavily and is upset that Pakistan is unable to ensure safety for the projects and the route along the CPEC, with Chinese workers being attacked.
Foreign based Pakistani experts, among them those working in Chinese institutions, are surmising that the Sino-Pak proximity is getting complicated and is becoming full of thorns as they get working on the CPEC and fight the US pressures.
Ideally, China would like Pakistan not to take engage in rhetoric and adopt hostile postures vis a vis the United States. It fears Trump whose two sore points in Asia, North Korea and Afghanistan, are making him restless may adopt a tougher line on Pakistan, since the options in North Korea are limited.
The growing complexities have put paid to the Chinese plans to propose the idea of a “BRICS Plus” to bring other emerging economies and markets into the bloc. But Beijing is afraid that it may face resistance from India which does not want expansion that can bring pro-China entrants, especially into the group.
The subject of expansion might be discussed at the next summit, says Dr Ghulam Ali who teaches International Relations at the School of Marxism, Sichuan University of Science & Engineering, Zigong, China. He is the author of ‘China-Pakistan Relations: A Historical Analysis’ (OUP 2017).
On Rohingya refugees, Pakistan that has ovr 400-000 Rohingyas, was hoping for help from China . But China has taken a stand akin to India’s for its own security concerns over Uighbour |Muslim tribls of Xinjiang. . It is now clear that China will fight the international community at the UN, and UNSC, by vetoeing any move to pressurize Myanmar. This is what it means by keeping the issue ‘local’ and not globalize it.
Taking place in Xiamin, on the Chinese soil, the Ninth BRICS summit was very important from the Pakistani and Sino-Pak perspective. While the terrorism bit, with specific, but unnamed reference to Pakistan has been talked about a lot, the other on the “UN reforms” has not – and this is where the India-Pakistan factor comes in.
The 43-page long BRICS Declaration in which the subject of UN reforms and terrorism are particularly relevant. The Declaration called for comprehensive UN reform, especially of the Security Council “with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges.”
Dr Ali notes that India has long been pressing for UN reforms with an eye on a permanent seat in the UNSC. It justifies this demand on the basis of its large size, population and growing role in world affairs.
“India’s economic performance during the last several years has given a new impetus to this demand for which it has secured the backing of the Western world and big powers, except China. Beijing’s opposition was based on its own and of Pakistan’s concerns over India’s ambitions,” he says. But he points out that “China fully realizes India’s capacity and the will as a regional challenger – backed by China’s other rivals. New Delhi has demonstrated such attitude on a number of occasions. India’s refusal to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative Forum, this May, and the 73-day-long Doklam military standoff (June-August) are just two recent examples.”
Dr Ali expresses fears of a India-China rapproachment at some stage to the detriment of Pakistan that has for years opposed India at the UNSC.
Already, in recent years, “China’s stance on UN reforms has moved closer to India’s position. Lately, China has been stating that it “understands and supports India’s aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations, including in the Security Council.” The BRICS Declaration is the latest document that the Chinese leadership has signed along with India to urge UN reforms.
Dr Ali says: “As Sino-Indian relations improve with India playing its cards skillfully, the last hurdle in Indian ambitions for a permanent seat in the UNSC will be removed. Beijing may regard Islamabad’s concerns but its final decision will be based on its own interests. India’s acquisition of a permanent seat in the UNSC will change the balance of power in South Asia decisively in its favor. Without a final settlement of territorial disputes between India and Pakistan (and also between China and India) such a development will be dangerous to regional peace.”
He fears of confluence of India-China interests at some stage.
“As Sino-Indian relations improve with India playing its cards skillfully, the last hurdle in Indian ambitions for a permanent seat in the UNSC will be removed. Beijing may regard Islamabad’s concerns but its final decision will be based on its own interests,” he says.
He says: “Pakistan should also consider UN reforms. Instead of pursuing a policy “to get India blocked/vetoed” (through China on UN reforms or the Nuclear Suppliers Group etc), Pakistan should prepare its own case for membership and seek China’s help, which Beijing will be more than happy to do.”
Unfortunately, Islamabad has mostly used its China card in the wrong instances. Islamabad’s case for a greater role in the UN has potential
On terrorism, where the China showed its divergence from the Pakistani stand at BRICS, Ali notes: “Pakistan is accused of supporting the Haqqani network, LeT and JeM. For the first time the Chinese leadership signed a document on its territory describing these groups as terrorists and showing willingness to take action against their supporters.”
Equally concerning to Dr Ali was the fact that the Declaration came days after Trump’s sermon in which he had warned Islamabad to stop what he said was providing a safe haven to the Taliban and take a uniform policy vis-à-vis all terrorist groups or face a termination of military aid at the minimum.
To top it, Pakistan petulantly complained of not being consulted by China.
“Pakistan’s shocking response proved that it was not “consulted” by China prior to BRICS. If it is correct, this is another sign of a change in China’s South Asian policy. China and Pakistan have had a tradition of consulting each other. In light of this tradition, Beijing should have informed Islamabad about its intentions.”
By way of damage control, officials from China and Pakistan came forward to explain that the event will not affect two-way relations. Beijing reassured that there was no change in its policy on terrorism and also acknowledged Pakistan’s commitment and sacrifices in fighting this menace. Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Sun Weidong, guaranteed the continuity of Sino-Pakistan relations, adding that the organizations mentioned in the Declaration were already banned (what else could one expect from a Chinese diplomat to Islamabad?)
Pak Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif visited China immediately thereafter, but the although his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi reaffirmed their partnership, but there was no effort to assuage Pakistan’s ‘hurt’ feelings.
Dr Ali is among those few Pakistani scholars who urge Pakistan to mend its ways and not take relationship with China for granted. They point to the problems faced from time to time in Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. In short, they are critical of Pakistan’s Zero-Sum approach to diplomacy.
“Pakistan has relied on China to counter external pressure on terrorism. Whenever the US demanded it “do more” while disregarding Pakistan’s sacrifices and limitations in the ‘War on Terror’, Beijing stood by its “all-weather” friend.
“Not only this, China blocked, on Pakistan’s behest (most probably unwillingly), Indian resolutions in the UN to declare a terrorist the head of Jaish-i-Mohammad Masood Azhar,” Dr Ali says, pointing oht that “for this China even faced pressure and sometimes embarrassment.”
He notes that “this support seems to have ceased,” and points to long-term implications to Pakistan’s detriment.
He cautions: “Beijing does not make abrupt shifts in its policies even on matters of urgency. It take a decision after long (in-house) deliberations, then moves in that direction gradually till the full demonstration of the new policy. Change in China’s Kashmir policy during the 1980s from pro-Pakistan towards neutrality was accomplished exactly like this.”
It is well-known that China has moved away from supporting outright Pakistan’s stand on the Kashmir issue to treating it as bilateral issue of India and Pakistan. It is clear that with greater commitment and involvement in Asia’s regional affairs, China needs to tamper its pro-Pakistani stance also tap-down the latter, asking it to behave.
Dr Ali is critical of Pakistan seeing it from Chinese prism.
The BRICS debacle, h says “might give Pakistan a chance to review rusty policies, among them the use of proxies as a foreign policy tool. Whatever the rationale of this policy in the past, if any, in today’s world its continuity will only damage Pakistan’s interests and damage the name of Islam.”