‘China-Pak axis: Asia’s new geopol­i­tics’

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - M Nawaz Khan Email:nawazverdag915@hot­mail.com

IN his book “The China-Pak­istan Axis: Asia’s new geopol­i­tics” An drew Small fo­cuses on the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween China and Pak­istan by ex­plor­ing why these ties are so deep and last­ing. It can be con­sid­ered as a first-hand ac­count since the au­thor spent six years liv­ing in China, Pak­istan and In­dia prob­ing the var­i­ous per­spec­tives of this part­ner­ship. The book has three parts; the first part is about co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries; the sec­ond part high­lights con­cerns and chal­lenges to the Pak­istan-China re­la­tion­ship and the third sec­tion deals with prospects of re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries in fu­ture. The book also has a pro­logue and an epi­logue.

The pro­logue gives an ac­count of the Red Mosque Op­er­a­tion. He be­lieves that the kid­nap­ping of seven Chi­nese cit­i­zens by Red Mosque agents served as the de­ci­sive point for the Op­er­a­tion. The au­thor as­serts that Pak­istani mil­i­tary was re­luc­tant to al­ter its re­la­tion­ship with the mil­i­tants de­spite the per­sis­tent pres­sure of the US. How­ever, Pak­istan had no other op­tion but to dis­pel the im­pres­sion that Pak­istan was not a se­cure place for friendly Chi­nese. Small makes fun of the pop­u­lar ‘All weather friends’ slo­gan and says all it means is an oblique crit­i­cism of the US poli­cies to­wards Pak­istan.

The first two chap­ters give the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween China and Pak­istan. The au­thor says that the foun­da­tion of Sino-Pak re­la­tion­ship is based on Pak­istan’s ri­valry with In­dia. Like­wise, in the sec­ond chap­ter ti­tled “Nu­clear Fu­sion” the writer dis­cusses nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries claim­ing that China is in­volved in nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. Ac­cord­ing to him, Zulifqar Ali Bhutto in 1976 fi­nalised a se­cret agree­ment with Mao Ze­dong in the field of nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion for mil­i­tary pur­pose. He as­serts that China sup­ported Pak­istan for the ac­qui­si­tion of nu­clear tech­nol­ogy as it wanted to di­vert In­dian strate­gic at­ten­tion to­wards Pak­istan.

In the chap­ter “Chi­nese War on Ter­ror” the Chi­nese con­cerns about mil­i­tancy in Xin­jiang are taken up. He main­tains that in the past Pak­istan was sup­port­ing the Uighurs’ re­li­gious and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties which have been a sting­ing point be­tween the two coun­tries since 1960s. Ter­ror­ist acts against Chi­nese work­ers in Pak­istan are men­tioned to prove how this coun­try has be­come the most in­se­cure over­seas des­ti­na­tion for Chi­nese work­ers. He ne­glects to men­tion that China al­ways ac­knowl­edged Pak­istani ef­forts against ex­trem­ism. Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism has in­creased sub­stan­tially since 2010 years.

The au­thor has tried to por­tray China’s Afghanistan’s pol­icy as the Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy’s dilemma. He be­lieves that China has strug­gled to de­cide whether mil­i­tancy or the pres­ence of a geostrate­gic ri­val poses the greater threat. How­ever, he does not seem will­ing to ac­cept Chi­nese non­in­ter­fer­ence pol­icy in the re­gion. He re­veals that dur­ing his stay and in­ter­ac­tion with Chi­nese of­fi­cials, the Chi­nese were very vo­cal while de­lib­er­at­ing var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional is­sues, but on Sino-Pak­istan re­la­tions they care­fully choose words that only re­flected the im­por­tance of Sino-Pak re­la­tions.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis the au­thor sees greater and pos­i­tive role of China in the re­gion. The Chi­nese evo­lu­tion from a free-rider to a re­gional sta­bi­lizser would be a com­mon point be­tween the US and China in the near fu­ture. China is very con­cerned about the spillover of in­sta­bil­ity from Afghanistan, there­fore it seeks long term po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion of Afghanistan, and he be­lieves Pak­istan can fa­cil­i­tate that process. An­drew small an­tic­i­pates a web of eco­nomic projects from Gwadar to Xin­jiang grow­ing as eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion fur­ther strength­ens the strate­gic part­ner­ship.

The vol­ume as whole seem­ingly dom­i­nates typ­i­cal Western view­point re­gard­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and China. How­ever, the au­thor has cov­ered all per­spec­tives, which seems by and large a prej­u­dice ap­proach. Es­pe­cially, in the case of al­legedly blam­ing on China’s in­volve­ment in nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion or China’s sup­port to Pak­istan for the ac­qui­si­tion of nu­clear tech­nol­ogy, which is not based on re­al­ity as Pak­istan’s nu­clear pro­gramme is an in­dige­nous one. More­over, Pak­istan re­mains a peace­ful coun­try, which be­lieves on re­gional peace and did not ever sup­port the Uighurs’ re­li­gious ex­trem­ism. Lastly, the au­thor for­got the fact that Pak­istani po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and civil-mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment had al­ready de­cided to be a part of War against ter­ror­ism af­ter the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent of 9/11. —The writer works at Islamabad Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute, a think­tank based in Islamabad.

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