One may be pleased as punch about the United State’s strong statement urging Pakistan to act against terrorists that target its neighbours, but let’s hold the crowing. When push comes to shove, it is China which can actually influence Pakistan on such matters, not the US.
The harsh warning is likely to mean little more than what a passing life guard’s ticking off might mean to a gang of teenagers disturbing others on a beach. It would be foolhardy to think that it will actually cause much change in behaviour.
China’s commitment of 46 billion US dollars investments for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has given fresh life to Pakistan’s economy. So India’s strategic concerns hinges on China’s economic prospects far more than on statements the US State Department. The Defence Department has withheld 300 million dollars which had been vouchsafed to Pakistan, but that is not even one per cent of China’s investment.
In any case, defence cooperation between China and Pakistan is so close that substantial numbers of Chinese troops are said to be stationed across the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan and China cooperate closely with each other on defence. In fact, China acknowledges that Pakistan is its closest strategic partner. Indians can forget at their own peril the fact that Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraf was sitting in Beijing when the Kargil war began.
The sobering fact is that China has gone out of its way to set India against its neighbour. Pakistan has been its leading cat’s-paw.
Playing both sides
On the other hand, Pakistan has scant regard for the US and its prescriptions. After all, Pakistan has played both sides with the US for several decades. Since at least the beginning of the 1990s, it has been an ally of the US’s opponents while simultaneously being a political and military ally of the US.
Matters came to a head once more on Friday, when the US Defence department withheld 300 million dollars of its military aid to Pakistan over the latter’s reluctance to act against the Haqqani network.
Pakistan has nurtured the hardline Haqqani group, one of the most important factions within the Afghan 'mujahideen’ since the 1980s. It continues to be based and protected in Pakistan. The group had allied with the Taliban to help take over Pakistan in 1996, and is considered an important player in the Taliban’s internal politics. Indeed, it represents Pakistani priorities within the Taliban.
Given this background, Pakistan is unlikely to be much impressed by the State Department statement noting 'progress’ or adding that 'we want to see more progress on its (Pakistan’s) part.’
If anything, Pakistan is likely to be miffed by the tone and tenor of that statement, which sounded clearly peremptory and judgmental. On the one hand, Pakistan clearly views the US as a fair-weather friend, undependable in crucial times. Since 1995, it has felt betrayed over the US’s growing closeness to India.
On the other hand, Pakistan has long been convinced that its actions, including support, arms and training for militants, with regard to Kashmir are all legitimate. Indeed, these have been at the core of the Pakistan state’s policy for long periods.
Pakistan has already promoted China as the major power in its strategic, counter-terrorism, and economic policy thrusts in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the northern regions of Jammu and Kashmir state. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan have formed a counter-terrorism alliance.
China sees Central Asia as well as the route through the northern part of Jammu and Kashmir through Pakistan to the Gwadar port as its modern-day 'silk route'. Oil pipelines, mining for precious metals, and export routes are all crucial to its strategic policies for the 21st century.