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جمعہ، 26 اگست، 2011

Tasting the Chinese warmth

On Wednesday Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar held talks with the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during which China signalled its intention to play a significant role for lasting peace in Afghanistan and NATO draw down of troops in Afghanistan scheduled to be completed in 2014, it is for certain that the neighbouring countries have a stake in peace after that Pakistan is the immediat neighbour of Afghanistan and China and still hosting more than million Afghan refugees and it would like to have the views and assessment of Beijing on the emerging situation.

As foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar landed in Beijing on her maiden visit, she tasted the Chinese affection for Pakistan richly. She was received warmly by her hosts. And her Chinese interlocutors gave vent to voluble reiteration for Pakistan’s wellbeing, stability, progress and prosperity and struck enlivening notes for strengthening and augmenting the decades-long multifaceted cooperation between the two countries to the good of their peoples. Furthermore, they were all praise for Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism, at this point in time when certain world powers are out to decry this country in spite of its tremendous sacrifices in lives and materials in fighting this battle. Just recently, when after the Abbottabad raid episode the western detractors of all hues and stripes ganged up to demonise Pakistan, its military and its ISI intelligence agency, Beijing came out with a forceful defence of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts. It said this country had had made tremendous contributions to the global fight against terrorism at great costs to itself and urged the world community to recognise those contributions fully. Even when the Kashgar authorities asserted that some militants involved in the recent violence in this city of the Chinese Xinjiang province were trained in an Ughur terrorists’ camp in Pakistan, Beijing reaffirmed it publicly that the Chinese government firmly believed no official Pakistani agency was involved in terrorism in China. Indeed, the Chinese who over the time have been going the whole hog to help Pakistan in its economic development works have at times suffered terrorist strikes in very suspicious circumstances. A bus carrying a group of Chinese engineers and technicians working on the key Gwadar port was attacked fatally when the Balochistan province was humming with reports of dollars flying freely to recruit its raw youth at the price of $10,000 per head by some mysterious forces. Earlier, two Chinese engineers working on the construction of Gomal Dam were kidnapped by Abdullah Mehsud, a militant who despite being a Pakistani national was inexplicably released from the US Guantanamo prison in Afghanistan, from where after quite a time he surfaced in Pakistan. This kidnapping was his first act after return to the country. One Chinese engineer was killed in the escape attempt while the other luckily made his escape good. Yet, the Chinese did not put Pakistan on the mat. Unhappy they certainly were; but vindictive or confrontationist they were not. Not even were they so when quite unethically and immorally the Pakistani authorities leased out virtually at throwaway terms the Gwadar port that the Chinese had built to the Singapore port authority, believably at their American masters’ behest. Neither the Chinese strategic cartographers sat down in some defence academy, as have the Americans, to re-chart Pakistan, deleting Balochistan from its map as its part. Nor did they organise any suspect seminar on Balochistan in Beijing or elsewhere, as have the Americans only a short while ago in Washington, where separatist voices were heard loudly. They let no grouse or grudge enter their hearts or minds. Instead, they have remained as enthusiastically engaged in the development works in this country as before, never loath to accept even jobs that were once stupidly taken away from them. They undertook and completed the famous Saindak gold and copper mining project in Balochistan. The completed project was then taken over from them but the rulers who had all the money to build an unnecessary motorway in Punjab speciously pleaded penury to provide just Rs.1 billion to commission the completed project into service. The Chinese were asked if they could take over; they did and made it a flourishingly running undertaking as is it now. And had the finance ministry’s mandarins not sat on the file over a petty issue, the Chinese would have long ago made the Thar coal a fabulous treasure of energy for the country. It was to be a wholly Chinese-funded enterprise.Yes, Chinese interest in Pakistan is driven by their national interests. But unlike others, as for one our much touted American friends, the Chinese do not expect or insists on Pakistan to surrender or subjugate its own national interests to theirs. Nor do they interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs, as do the Americans, so much so that their two high-ranking officials had flown in from Washington after the 2008 election and knocked at various political doors to cobble up a government in total contravention of all diplomatic norms. The Chinese accept whoever are Pakistan’s leaders, as their ties with this country essentially go down to the masses’ level. Little wonder then, China lives in the hearts of this country’s people so affectionately, cutting across every segment of its polity.

Although we never miss an opportunity to emphasise the importance of our relations with China, terming them “the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy”, as Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar did in Beijing on Wednesday at a press conference called after she had held talks with her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, the question is: Do we live up to the expectations of that policy? Have we, for instance, tried to maintain and strengthen these relations in consonance with the demands of “higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans” – other common expressions used both by the Chinese and Pakistani leadership, political analysts and the media? The simple and short answer is: Hardly! For certain periods in the past, though, the deepening of ties with Beijing appeared to have been the most coveted foreign policy of the then Pakistan government on account of the genuine appreciation it had of the assistance the Chinese were giving to us without attaching any strings at all. The Chinese, on their part, have not changed; they keep reminding us that they are ready to keep continuing with their efforts they had made in raising the infrastructure required for progress and prosperity of the country. Indeed, the projects they have executed are not only numerous, but also of crucial relevance to our industry, economy as a whole and the defence of the country. Recounting them would need much larger space.
According to a statement issued at the end of the Khar-Yang meeting, Mr Yang reiterated that China would continue to stand by Pakistan in safeguarding its stability and economic development, hailing the bilateral relations as a “high-quality strategic cooperation” and appreciating Islamabad’s consistent support of Beijing’s core interests: Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. As Ms Khar denied Pakistan’s official involvement in the recent terrorist attack in China’s ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the authorities in Beijing accused East Turkestan Islamic Movement of this act.
Post-9/11 situation in the country calls for a serious review of policies. The multiple crises that our leaders’ fascination for the West, in particular for the US, has dragged Pakistan into must now compel them to reflect on the ways to pull it out of this morass. There is little doubt that if they were to do so, a deep and unqualified disillusionment of the Western treatment of Pakistan would start taking hold of their minds. A deeper reflection would tell them that exploitation of weaker powers is the US standard policy plank, which helps keep them underdeveloped even though they might be endowed with plentiful resources, natural as well as human. That turns these countries into tools for the advancement of its strategic goals. In our case, the American objectives in the region are in direct clash with our national interests, and because of that the contours of US attitude towards us after its troops have left Afghanistan are visible. It is time to read the unmistakable signs and turn towards our all-weather friend China.

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