Why should China come to rescue a defaulting Pakistani elite that has placed all its eggs in the American basket? We just can’t seem to run our affairs like big nations do. Our problem is that we have a great country with great capabilities but a political elite with the worldview of a rat.
Where would you put your money: On an America burdened by a $10 trillion debt or a China flush with almost $2 trillion cash reserves, the largest in the world?
You would think Pakistan is the luckiest country in the world for being China’s close ally as the world faces economic decline.
The truth is, we have a ruling class that has been betting on the wrong horse. President Zardari should know. But by no means is this his mistake alone. This is more about a shortsighted political elite that sits on one of the world’s hottest pieces of real estate – Pakistan – and simply doesn’t know what to do with it. Even MacDonald’s does a better job with its properties.
Why should China come to rescue a defaulting Pakistani elite that has placed all its eggs in the American basket? The bitter truth is that both Saudi Arabia and China want to help Pakistan. Both maintain strong military ties with Pakistan. But currently they are reluctant to contribute to the survival of a government in Islamabad that appears a little too pro-American than the acceptable limits for a sovereign nation. Let the Americans handle their own mess in Pakistan. This is the new attitude. That’s why the Saudi oil concession and the Chinese billions are not coming.
Riyadh and Beijing have good relations with America. But unlike Pakistan, both jealously guard their own interest first. The harsh truth is that we in Pakistan have a government that could have as well been made in Washington, peppered with strong U.S. and British apologists in key posts. Right or wrong, this perception is especially felt in Beijing. Eight Chinese oil workers have been kidnapped in Sudan as Africa emerges as a new battleground for clashing American and Chinese interests. But Pakistan was and continues to be the first battleground. The Chinese have been under attack in Pakistan for the past four years, something unheard of in our half-century of close ties. The Americans have made unusual political inroads in Islamabad. Now they are following this up with military incursions and full fledged psychological warfare to ensure total Pakistani compliance.
We have played both Washington and Beijing in the past. But there comes a time when you need to take a stand on national interest. Pakistan’s time has come and gone. It came again this summer, when someone in Washington decided to expand the disastrous Iraq-Afghan war into Pakistan. And we caved. Again.
By politely declining Zardari government’s request for a massive cash infusion, Beijing’s message is clear: China’s influence and interests in Pakistan must be protected. You can’t spend seven months in American laps, go to them for help as a first choice, and then dash to China as an option of last resort and expect Beijing to go weak in the knees because of a hollow statement such as ‘I’ll visit China once every three months.’
Even China’s pro-Pakistan quarters are confused. Sixty years and we still don’t have Pakistani translators who speak Chinese. Beijing went as far as spending its own money to build a modern Chinese language center in the heart of the Pakistani capital three years ago. Still no Pakistani translators to accompany our leaders visiting China. The Chinese cite the example of Indian television plays. The Indian embassy in Beijing is supplying local Chinese TV stations with copies of Indian plays dubbed in Chinese. These are playing all over the place. Pakistan’s PTV has a two-decade old treaty with China’s CCTV to do just that. But our people are yet to send anything similar. In 2005, we signed with China a ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-neighborly Relations’. It was supposed to be the beginning of expanding the Sino-Pak relationship beyond the military. But the treaty hasn’t inched forward in three years. Chinese officials had to politely remind their Pakistani counterparts during President Zardari’s visit that the treaty “is of great historic and immediate significance” to the future of our relationship, according to the joint statement.
China’s biggest project in Pakistan, the Gwadar port, has been under attack along with its engineers and workers and we have done nothing to stop it. Our President went to Beijing to ask for a major favor while two Chinese engineers continue to be kidnapped inside our own territory. One has escaped to freedom but these kidnappings keep recurring. Can you blame a young Chinese policy analyst sitting in some think tank in China for assuming that there might be elements in Islamabad that concur with the outside powers that would like to see China forced out of Pakistan?
We just can’t seem to run our affairs like big nations do. Our problem is that we have a great country with great capabilities but a political elite with the worldview of a rat.
America is and must continue to be our friend. But this is the time to break free of voluntary submission to U.S. diktat. The world financial crisis is an opportunity to reduce our political and economic reliance on U.S. What are we afraid of? Economic hardship? America is already using donor organizations to squeeze Pakistan. Pakistanis will accept hardship if they are honestly told that the upshot will be setting our policies and priorities right.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Wednesday, 22 October 2008.