China, Pak­istan and bin Laden’s demise

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Lock­heed Martin as a pri­mary strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work with the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand in the event of war on Tai­wan waged by China. The en­tire Chinese mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment in re­cent weeks ap­pears ec­static as Pak­istan, en­raged by the unan­nounced U.S. mil­i­tary raid into Pak­istan that killed Osama bin Laden, sud­denly and dra­mat­i­cally has es­ca­lated its friend­ship with Bei­jing in a clear sig­nal of a new anti-Amer­i­can part­ner­ship.

On May 21, the Islamabad Post re­ported that dur­ing the visit, “Pak­istan asked China that a mes­sage be con­veyed to the U.S. gov­ern­ment that Pak­istan’s sovereignty should be re­spected. The Chinese gov­ern­ment as­sured that they would help us to re­move all the bot­tle­necks com­ing in the way of our pros­per­ity.”

The same re­port quoted Pak­istani De­fense Min­is­ter Ahmed Mukhtar, who ac­com­pa­nied Mr. Gi­lani to Bei­jing, as say­ing: “China is an all-weather friend and the clos­est ally of Pak­istan, and it could be judged from the fact that in ev­ery sec­tor Pak­istan re­quested as­sis­tance dur­ing [the prime min­is­ter’s] re­cent visit to China, they im­me­di­ately agreed with Pak­istan.”

The Chinese mes­sage sent in the mil­i­tary aid was un­mis­tak­able. It in­cludes trans­fer to Pak­istan of Chinese-made 4,400-ton Type 054A mis­sile fr igates, called Jiangkai-II Class by NATO, “on credit ba­sis.” Also in­cluded were 50 Chinese-Pak­istani-made JF-17 Thun­der fight­ers and the an­nounced pur­chase of sev­eral dozen new Chinese J-10 fight­ers for the Pak­istani Air Force. The re­ported deal also con­tains a pos­si­ble lease by Pak­istan’s navy of China’s nu­clear-pow­ered at­tack sub­marines.

The quid pro quo for China, as con­firmed by Mr. Mukhtar, is a strate­gic bomb­shell: Pak­istan will al­low China to “take over” Pak­istan’s strate­gic sea­port of Gwadar af­ter a man­age­ment lease with Sin­ga­pore ex­pires.

Lo­cated in the ex­treme south­west­ern point of Pak­istan just out­side the strate­gic choke point of the Strait of Hor­muz, Gwadar had been among the most cov­eted spots in Bei­jing’s global strate­gic cal­cu­la­tions.

China pro­vided 80 per­cent of the fi­nanc­ing and much of the la­bor force used for con­struc­tion of the deep warm-wa­ter sea­port, which be­gan in 2002 and was fin­ished in 2007.

China’s mil­i­tary op­er­ates an elec­tronic radar lis­ten­ing post in Gwadar that mon­i­tors U.S. naval traf­fic, which fre­quently tran­sits the re­gion on the way to the Per­sian Gulf. In 2003, China and Pak­istan struck a deal to build a rail­way con­nect­ing Gwadar and China’s Xin­jiang prov­ince. About 60 per­cent of China’s en­ergy im­ports pass through sea lanes near Gwadar. If and when a Chinese takeover of Gwadar be­comes a re­al­ity, much of China’s strate­gic re­liance on waters east of Pak­istan, a prom­i­nent U.S. area of in­flu­ence, will be greatly re­duced.

Some ob­servers have said Gwadar is part of China’s larger strate­gic goal called the “String of Pearls,” which calls for es­tab­lish­ing bases and al­liances along sea routes from the oil-rich Mid­dle East to China’s coasts. One prom­i­nent Chinese mil­i­tary blog­ger stated in an In­ter­net post af­ter the an­nounce­ment that the true mean­ing of the Chinese mil­i­tar y’s pro­jected takeover of Gwadar was that “the land­mark that the Chinese navy has been ag­o­niz­ingly wait­ing for 60 years to reach” was fi­nally within sight.

Miles Yu can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.

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