Neigh­bours and ri­vals

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS - Shahid M Amin

that ended dis­as­trously. This also showed the per­ils of seek­ing a diplo­matic suc­cess abroad to se­cure do­mes­tic pop­u­lar­ity for the forth­com­ing elec­tions. What has China achieved by block­ing In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of NSG? Ex­clu­sion from NSG hin­ders ura­nium sup­ply to In­dia to some ex­tent, and ac­cess to the lat­est nu­clear tech­nol­ogy. It de­nies In­dia a seat in the nu­clear trade group. In po­lit­i­cal terms, it shows China’s sup­port for its ‘iron friend’ Pak­istan. It weak­ens In­dia’s claim to a per­ma­nent seat in the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil by virtue of be­ing an NSG mem­ber. It is a snub not only to In­dia but also to the USA, which had strongly es­poused In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of NSG. And it is an as­ser­tion of China’s clout as an emerg­ing Power and its say in global pol­i­tics.

China has said that its stance in NSG was based on prin­ci­ples. In­dia is not a sig­na­tory to the NPT and wants rules to be bent in its favour to en­able it to join NSG. This is true but the real rea­sons for China’s stance on In­dian ex­clu­sion from NSG are po­lit­i­cal. The Seoul episode high­lights the ri­val­ries of three neigh­bour­ing coun­tries in a wider geopo­lit­i­cal con­text. The bit­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia is no se­cret. But there are also abid­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween China and In­dia who see each other as ri­vals for lead­er­ship of Asia. This is not some­thing new, but goes back to the 1950s. In­dia, un­der Jawa­har­lal Nehru, had sought to woo China. But at the 1955 Ban­dung Con­fer­ence of Afro-Asian coun­tries, a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the two coun­tries came to sur­face. China and In­dia next de­vel­oped se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences on their bound­ary, erupt­ing in a brief war in 1962, in which In­dia Email:shahid_m_amin@hot­ came out the loser. The bor­der is­sue still re­mains un­re­solved, though both In­dia and China have worked to im­prove their bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly in trade. But the NSG af­fair shows the con­tin­u­ing un­der­ly­ing ri­valry.

Pak­istan sought good re­la­tions with the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China since its for­ma­tion in Oc­to­ber 1949. When In­dia shut down trade with Pak­istan in 1949, due to a dis­pute over de­val­u­a­tion, Pak­istan turned to China as a sub­sti­tute for ex­port of its cot­ton and jute and im­port of coal. In 1950, Pak­istan be­came the first Mus­lim coun­try to recog­nise Com­mu­nist China and to es­tab­lish diplo­matic ties with it. Pak­istan’s cal­cu­la­tion was that it al­ready had prob­lems with a large neigh­bour (In­dia) and could not af­ford to have un­friendly re­la­tions with an­other big neigh­bour (China). Pol­icy plan­ners in China fore­saw a longterm ri­valry with In­dia, and con­sid­ered Pak­istan as a po­ten­tial ally be­cause it had deep dif­fer­ences with In­dia. At Ban­dung, Premier Chou En-lai met with Prime Min­is­ter Muham­mad Ali Bo­gra and stated af­ter­wards that he had been as­sured by Bo­gra that “al­though Pak­istan was a party to a mil­i­tary treaty (SEATO), it was not against China.” In 1956, the Prime Min­is­ters of China and Pak­istan ex­changed vis­its. Chou de­clared that al­though Pak­istan was a mem­ber of SEATO, there was no rea­son why China could not be friendly with her. Prime Min­is­ter Suhrawardy went on to de­clare in 1957 that “I feel per­fectly cer­tain that when the cru­cial time comes, China will come to our as­sis­tance.”

The above nar­ra­tive shows a con­sis­tency of poli­cies in which re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and China have grown from strength to strength. The 1965 Indo-Pak­istan War was no doubt the high wa­ter­mark of this re­la­tion­ship, but the pass­ing of time has not af­fected their strate­gic al­liance. More re­cently, a qual­i­ta­tive up­grad­ing in re­la­tions has taken place with the launch of the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Corridor (CPEC) where un­der the strate­gic and eco­nomic in­ter­ests of the two coun­tries would be­come in­ex­tri­ca­ble. CPEC is also a re­sponse to the Indo-U.S. axis that has been evolv­ing fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, which used to have a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with In­dia. Its suc­ces­sor Rus­sia is watch­ing with anx­i­ety In­dia’s grow­ing ties with USA. Rus­sia has im­proved re­la­tions with China and is look­ing to come closer to Pak­istan. A new align­ment of forces is clearly tak­ing place.

There is some anx­i­ety at present that Pak­istan is be­com­ing iso­lated in­ter­na­tion­ally. Pak­istan is hav­ing prob­lems in its neigh­bour­hood not only with its tra­di­tional ri­val In­dia but also with Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and even with Iran and Cen­tral Asian coun­tries. Pak­istan con­tin­ues to have a roller-coaster re­la­tion­ship with the USA. At the root is the is­sue of ter­ror­ism that has ad­versely af­fected Pak­istan’s re­la­tions with many coun­tries. What these coun­tries should re­alise is that Pak­istan it­self is the big­gest vic­tim of ter­ror­ism. The gap in com­mu­ni­ca­tions needs to be bridged through proac­tive diplo­macy. The mil­i­tary suc­cess of Zarb-i-Azb must also be sup­ple­mented by a strat­egy to erad­i­cate the sources of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism in re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions and else­where. This is the best way to over­come Pak­istan’s rel­a­tive iso­la­tion. — The writer served as Pak­istan’s Am­bas­sador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nige­ria and Libya.

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