“In order to assure Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua also gave a security guarantee that if the Soviets invaded, China would come to its defense. The intensification of Sino-Pakistani relations in warding off the Soviets presaged another important Chinese motivation for befriending Pakistan—the Islamic Republic served as a gateway to forging relations with the Muslim world, as well as a physical channel to the rest of Southwest Asia, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. In response to the Soviet invasion, China became very public in its concern for Soviet aggression against Muslim countries. At the 1980 meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held in Islamabad, Beijing addressed the forty-two foreign ministers of Muslim nations and made the case that if Islamic countries did not oppose the Soviet Union, then other Muslim countries might fall victim to Soviet expansionism.
Today there is no end to the hue and cry within the Obama administration and among lawmakers and the media that Pakistan poses a security threat not only to the region but also to the distant United States.
“China’s support for Pakistan and the broader Muslim umma comported with its effort to be an advocate for the rights of the third world in the face of great-power imperialism. Importantly, Beijing wanted to demonstrate that states could coexist peacefully despite having different social, political and ideological systems. Beijing placed particular emphasis on the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations—a principle that would guide its foreign policy for years to come.”
Change of tune in Washington
The collapse and breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which occurred at a time when China’s communist rulers were busy shifting the country’s external facade, changed the world’s security and political geometry. But the China-Pakistan relationship continued for some time as if nothing had happened. Today, reality is catching up with this illusion.
Constantly tuning and retuning its foreign policy to maintain the image as the sole superpower in the post-Cold War period, Washington began to take serious note of developments in Pakistan as well as in China during the 1990s. Among other things, Washington was forced to acknowledge the fact that the ten years (1980–1989) of violent lawlessness unleashed by Pakistan and the West to give the Soviet Union a bloody nose had begun to change Pakistan. Washington saw the effects in a weakening of the Pakistani military, its keystone in that country. But as history shows, Washington nonetheless chose to set aside those signals until its new arch enemy Osama bin Laden made his appearance with his retinue in Afghanistan.
Although it was Afghan leaders such as the late president Burhanuddin Rabbani and Taliban supremo Mullah Omar whom Washington blamed for sheltering and harbouring the dreaded terrorist, it was known from the get-go that the ISI, Pakistan’s military-run intelligence service, was as much a part of the show as was Washington’s another ally, Saudi Arabia. Following the 2001 U.S. invasion, Washington began to slowly disseminate the facts of Pakistan’s involvement with the terrorists to the American public but continued to pretend that the Pakistan military would make an effort to extricate itself from such involvement in the post-9/11 days. It was, at best, wishful thinking and, at worst, a cover for Washington’s inability to deal with this complicated situation.
“¦areas of cooperation between China and Pakistan is now being watched in Washington with a suspicious eye.
But now that the chickens have come home to roost, Washington’s policymakers and the academics who follow their every mood and turn have come to the conclusion that Pakistan’s terrorist gambit was indeed a bad thing. Today, in 2011, there is no end to the hue and cry within the Obama administration and among lawmakers and the media that Pakistan poses a security threat not only to the region but also to the distant United States. In this context, a handful of analysts in Washington have begun to look at the “negative” security aspects of the Sino-Pakistani relationship.
Though it has so far been mostly muted, this discussion is expected to grow louder in the coming days if the present trend in U.S.-Pakistan and U.S.-China relations continues. The discussion centres on China’s contribution to strengthening Islamabad in three areas. Each of these areas of cooperation between China and Pakistan is now being watched in Washington with a suspicious eye.