Issue :   
October 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         October 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:October' 2018


China tilt under pressure

Gopal Misra

Donald Trump It may appear quite farfetched, if not impossible, to an observer of international affairs that Pakistan’s tilt towards China is now facing tremendous pressure from the US, now led by President Donald Trump. A subtle change in Pakistan’s new approach towards China was visible during the visits of American delegations to China in September, 2018. It will be unfair to rush to a conclusion, but it indicates the changing scenario in the South-Asian region, especially in Pakistan, where China was being projected as a trusted friend against its arch enemy, India.

Imran Khan However, the new civilian face of Pakistan’s army establishment, Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country’s most popular celebrity- a cricketer-turned politician, is facing a tremendous task to keep two friendly powers, USA and China, in good humour within a few weeks of assuming the power.
In the first high-level encounter with the USA, the Imran government conceded the US request to the presence of the Pakistani army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other real power players in the state. It must have been quite rude for Imran to listen to the straight US demands from the visiting US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman, General Joseph Dunford, “Bring Talibans to the negotiating table or face the consequences”.

Qamar Javed Bajwa They reportedly told their Pakistani counterparts in the presence of Imran Khan without camouflaging in diplomatic niceties asking for more and more

The Pakistani tactic of running with the hare and hunting with the hound during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan during the regime of the General Zia-ul Haq and later in the Musharraf years enabled it to earn huge profits. It has enabled Pakistani army to have a much larger strength that a country of its size requires.

Mike Pompeo and Joseph Dunford Pakistani participation in the Afghan peace initiative. Except Imran, all the participants in the talks were quite aware of the ground realities. Earlier, Pompeo had headed CIA, and the new Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, is a darling of the military ruler.General Pervez Musharraf too had served as a foreign minister during the junta rule. Musharraf, who had deposed the then civilian Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999., had agreed to join the US-led coalition against terrorism.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi Qureshi was an active collaborator of Musharraf during the Afghan operations. This cooperation with the USA brought huge financial gains to Pakistan. Both Qureshi and Bajwa were quite aware of the ground reality that if Pakistan did not support America, its economic collapse would be imminent despite the Chinese offer of three billion US dollars to Pakistan. Also, the USA and other countries of the West may forefeit the ill-gotten money of the Pakistani military officers and their political collaborators parked in various countries of Europe and also in the USA.

Pervez Musharraf The Pakistani tactic of running with the hare and hunting with the hound during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan General Zia-ul Haq ruled and later in the Musharraf years enabled it to earn huge profits. It has enabled Pakistani army to have a much larger strength than a country of its size requires.
Its military establishment has been evolved in the past four decades as an Octopus strangulating Pakistan’s civil society, controlling its economy and also serving as a client state enriched by countries like Saudi Arabia and Western countries.

Nawaz Sharif These ill-gotten funds could empower it to become a well- organized war machine under a legitimate sovereign state. In spite of the army’s dubious role in the secession of its majority province East Pakistan in 1971, the cunning generals have successfully grabbed power in West Pakistan, now called Pakistan.
During the past five decades, this force has learnt to manage Pakistani democracy, its judiciary and other institutions to rule Pakistan indirectly through a civilian face. IK is the new face of the GHQ and ISI. Iman has been sworn amidst unprecedented economic crisis, when its foreign reserves have fallen to almost the level of bankruptcy.

Zia-ul Haq The dilemma before the new PM is whether to continue Pakistan’s honeymoon with China or return to the American fold. Both Qureshi and GHQ are aware of the US move to recruit mercenaries on a large scale to fight in Afghanistan. In this backdrop, it is natural for Pakistan to be wary of the new US move, which could make its role in the region irrelevant, both in politically as well in economic terms.
The issue before the Imran Khan government is how to end the mounting trust-deficit between the US and Pakistan. It is yet to be seen whether the US’s trusts Qureshi’s pleas, who indeed have had to perform a tight-rope walking during the talks. The USA’s repeated demand that “do more” actually is telling Pakistanis that they were aware of their suspicious role in stalemating the secret talks between the USA and Afghan Talibans in Europe.
This suspicion has now turned into total mistrust with the reemergence of Russia under Putin, and China’s assertion in the region with its growing economic and military clout. The West is not prepared to tolerate Pakistan’s efforts to adopt pro-Russian or Chinese policies undermining its strategic interests in Asia.

Lacklustre protocol

Wang Yi It is not known how much Qureshi’s tactics of extending lackluster protocol to the visiting US delegation helped in giving an “equi-distance” approach of Pakistan towards the USA and China. It, however, reflects that the confusion in the Pakistani establishment is getting more and more pronounced, when the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived just next day after Pompeo’s visit.
Instead of receiving the high-power US delegation, personally, foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi deployed a Secretary-level official to the airport. Similarly, the visiting Chinese dignitary Yi just got a handshake from an additional Secretary of the Pakistani foreign office. In its bid to project an independent stature of Pakistan under Imran, the Pakistani foreign office released a picture showing that the Pakistani official was holding a file in his left hand, and offered only his right hand to Wang Yi. Pakistani protocol appeared to be casual, while Yi was shown offering warm hand shake with his both hands to the junior official!
Maybe, it was a crude attempt to show that how the new government is functioning so independently that it did not care for Wang Yi , though he had come to extend assistance to the tune of three billion US dollars to the foreign-exchange starved country.

Private mercenaries

Zalmay Khalilzad Imran’s innings in the government have begun under the growing US apprehensions about the growing proximity between Russia under Putin and Pakistan. Pakistan is under tremendous pressure “do more to contain Talibans”. Under Trump, USA it is not ready to tolerate China’s growing economic prowess. Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which enables Chinese merchandize to reach Central Asia without passing through South China Sea is not acceptable.

John Bolton The Pakistani establishment knows that China or Russia cannot be its ally to replace the USA. It is not known whether Qureshi could effectively protest against the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat, who had received education in Chicago University, as a U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan. His appointment as special adviser on reconciliation has invited anger in official circles of Pakistan as well as in the media.
The chairman of Pakistan's Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mushahid Hussain, claimed that, "the appointment of a wellknown Pakistan-hater, Zalmay Khalilzad, sends a negative message to Islamabad, when Washington badly needs Pakistan's cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan."

Erik Prince Another decision could change the entire defense arrangement in this region is the proposal to deploy mercenaries in the Afghan conflict. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton admitted that he is interested in a proposal of Erik Prince from a private military company, Blackwater, to shift the 17-year old US war in Afghanistan away from the Pentagon to private mercenaries.