No doubt, China is Pakistan’s best friend, but is it necessary to keep on testing its loyalty and limits?
Ostensibly, the dynamics of the world have changed. The world has fast traversed the era of economic war between countries — a special feature of the post-Cold War era — and has entered the era of economic cooperation, in which neighbouring countries collaborate with one another economically so that the whole region reaps dividends. Europe is the prototype for this idea of collaboration. If there is politics left in the world, it is now the politics of economic regions. How strongly this reality is overtaking countries can be seen in Asia.
On July 10, in Ufa, Russia, at the 15th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the status of both Pakistan and India was raised from observer to full member. Just a few years ago, no one could have imagined that Russia, China, India and Pakistan would opt to join hands for shared economic interests, regardless of their long-standing disputes. Pakistanis are generally amazed at this turn of events. Nevertheless, a Lahore-based Pakistani businessman, Arif Sarwar, would like to share his thoughts with the readers of this daily in the following words:
“The magnanimity of China in vetoing India’s move to hold Pakistan accountable for the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi (commander of the banned organisation, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, allegedly involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks) on April 9 this year, at the sanctions committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on June 23, may become Pakistan’s undoing. China had to do so when India invoked UNSC Resolution 1267 of October 15, 1999, which was the sanctions regime originally meant for al Qaeda but was subsequently modified and strengthened by 11 resolutions. These resolutions were adopted under Chapter seven of the UN Charter, which enjoins all states to take certain measures against terrorism, such as freezing assets, imposing travel bans and disarming the designated individuals and entities. Failure to do so could make a state liable for sanctions to target the ‘designated actors and entities’ initially, and then ‘comprehensive economic and trade sanctions and/or more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, financial or diplomatic restrictions’. It is not known if Pakistan can also invoke a similar UNSC resolution against India because of India’s alleged funding of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).”
Although China justified the veto by saying that India had “failed to provide enough information”, the other four permanent members (US, UK, France and Russia) and the non-permanent members of the sanctions committee, such as New Zealand and Chile, were convinced of the evidence and arguments provided by India. This event is the success of India in singling out Pakistan, even if it has failed to have Pakistan ostracised internationally. This is not the first time China has done a favour for Pakistan, especially in the domain of terrorism. How long will Pakistan rely on China to save its skin in the UNSC? How long will China come to Pakistan’s rescue? What price should Pakistan be ready to pay for being obliged? What are the expectations of China? Will Pakistan ever be able to return these favours? What will happen if another Mumbai-style incident happens on Indian soil, the footprints of which are again traced to Pakistan? Will China be able to bail Pakistan out again? What will happen if China does not help out Pakistan at the UNSC level next time? Does Pakistan have any contingency plans for such a scenario, other than blaming China for disloyalty? China has also made a mistake; it has raised Pakistan’s expectations too much. On the other hand, Pakistan has put China in a difficult position by making it not only protect Pakistan’s position but also its own for defending Pakistan at the UNSC.
Even the entry of Pakistan into the SCO is more because of China’s backing than Pakistan’s domestic financial performance or diplomatic success abroad. If China had not vetoed India’s move at the UNSC, Pakistan may have been denied membership to the SCO. Recently, when Pakistan dithered in sending its armed forces to help Saudi Arabia against the rebels of Yemen, the Saudi government lashed out at Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has assisted Pakistan financially on several occasions and was surprised at Pakistan’s indecision to reciprocate in kind. The question is: will Pakistan be able to pass a test from China?
There is another dimension to this issue. For how long can China afford to incur the odium of India at the cost of Pakistan? China and India are coming closer. China is ready to invest in India (albeit half the amount that it has promised to invest in Pakistan) and has accepted the entry of India into the SCO. The regional economic interests of both countries are converging. Both China and India have the capacity to give and take. India’s market is far bigger than that of Pakistan and has more to offer China than Pakistan does. The foremost target for Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister (PM) of India, is how to get China to recast its regional preferences. Assuming that the leitmotif behind Pak-China relations is impervious is a fallacy. In this age of alternatives — and this is where the danger zone lies — Pakistan is not anticipating a turn of events, even if the possibility is remote, which could affect the regional priorities of China at the expense of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to take measures domestically that obviate the need for other countries to bail it out. Pakistan must start valuing its sovereign and independent status.
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pak-China Relations: The Danger Zone | Dr Qaisar Rashid