Avoiding the Armageddon
China and Pakistan have one of the closest relationships in international diplomacy. The two states have maintained a decades-long consistent as well as multi-faceted relationship that spans strategic defence, political, economic and diplomatic ties. This is due to this enduring relationship that the balance of power has been maintained in the Subcontinent. But, the US-Indian strategic alliance that has developed in the wake of American drawdown from Afghanistan, and particularly President Obama’s recent visit to India, is being seen as an attempt to contain China and give India the role of a regional policeman. The stakes are high and as some analysts see, it may be an omen of the next great war that would be fought between China-Pakistan and US-India camps.
There is no denying the fact that Pakistan values friendship with China more than friendship with the US as the former has been maintaining a time-tested friendship with Pakistan. Pakistanis do believe that whenever Pakistan is in trouble at the regional or the international level, China has always stood by Pakistan and it will continue to do so in the future as well. It is also a truth that if ever a question of preference of friendship arises, Pakistan would certainly vote for China as it suits the mutual interests of both the countries.
A lot of changes in the region have taken place recently. At a time when President Obama was relishing his ‘bromance’ with Modi, China was hosting Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. When Obama-Modi joint statement rebuked China for trying to use force and threats to establish control over the South China Sea, Chinese declared Pakistan their irreplaceable all-weather friend. It is also to be noted that quite a few countries had concerns about the various agreements concluded between India and the US, but Pakistan and China reacted sharply. Statements on President Obama’s visit from both capitals expressed concerns over threats to regional stability from the reinvigorated US-India partnership.
When seen in a broader context, it dawns that on one hand the United States is on the verge of losing balance because of the economic constraints as a result of war on terror in Afghanistan, on the other it is afraid of China and wants to assign a role of ‘Asia’s policeman’ to India in order to safeguard its interests in the region. But, on the other hand, China is the sole superpower in this part of the world and it has managed to match the American economy. It has also the potential to leave it behind in the near future. China is strong economically and militarily and is an apparent threat to the United States-India alliance. Pakistan being another key player in the region has allied with China. The country is utilizing its relationship with China to improve its security, economic and energy problems. In other words, Pakistan provides a platform to China in the heart of South Asia which is a strategic gain for the latter. The construction of Gwadar Port, Pakistan Navy bases in the Makran Coast, the construction of different dams, construction of communication lines and the “increased” Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan — as alleged by the Indian media — is a prick to the United States as well India.
The United States is scared of the Chinese hegemony in Pakistan; it has turned to India to counter the effect. The United States is also supporting Indian presence in Afghanistan. It means that after the so-called withdrawal of the US forces, India would help sustain stability in the country. Also, both the US and India have performed joint amphibious exercises at the US Marine base in Okinawa, Japan attempting to intimidate China. The civil-nuclear deal between the two is also a proof that the United States supports a nuclear India but objects over a nuclear Pakistan.
India is also playing a covert role in destabilizing the already vulnerable state of Pakistan. It is doing so by manipulating innocent people of Balochistan through RAW hiding behind groups like Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF). The five Indian consulates operating in Afghanistan help provide training to Balochs in sniper shooting, GPS handling and operating wireless gadgets to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The agency is provoking the locals to go against the government and demand for “independence” from Pakistan.
This all leaves Pakistan in the middle of nowhere. Pakistan is being encircled by India on both the western and eastern fronts with the backing of the United States. Hence, the only way out for Pakistan is to strengthen its ties with China for economic benefits. If this happens, then the Pakistan’s already fragile relationship with the US will also be in danger and the deterioration of these relations could lead to a direct confrontation — in which event, the involvement of the giant China, as Pakistan’s ally, might be inevitable.
A possible war between Pakistan—China on the one hand and the US-India on the other, would be extremely detrimental to not only this region but to the whole world at large.
Before apocalyptic scenarios become a reality, it would help if Washington exerts maximum efforts to avoid any confrontation in the region. The US will admittedly have a hard role, given the fact that relations between the Washington and China are already fragile, especially since the “Star Wars arms race” launched by China in 2007, but it is urgent that serious efforts be made at the earliest. The present situation also offers the opportunity to Pakistan to construct a new narrative of the Pak-US relationship, based on mutual self respect and interests, knowing the fact that the US isn’t just another country; it is a superpower that has made the world a more dangerous place.