Of Friends And Foes: The New Power Struggle In South Asia
Modi has been loud. Modi has been clear. He is in no mood to give Islamabad the leverage it needs on the international front. Islamabad’s good old bargaining chip (read: Kashmir) is being countered by India’s cries over the situation in Baluchistan.
If we dust our memories a little, a similar situation arose in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The Pakistani establishment will not repeat the worst mistake in its history, at least we hope it does not. But what are their options really? Very few. But sometimes, numbers don’t matter as much as a trust-worthy bigshot does.
Luckily, China has had Pakistan’s back more often than not.
According to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Abraham M Denmark, there has been an increase in presence and capability of forces present along the Sino-Indian border. He, however, could not establish whether it was for internal tenacity or external power games.
Another report from the Pentagon alleges China is soon going to form naval bases in “strategically important friendly nations”. You get the picture.
China has its primary customer in Pakistan when it comes to arms sale and defense cooperation. JF-17 thunder is one small example.
Needless to say, Beijing has a strategic interest to protect in Pakistan in the form of CPEC, which it cannot let go at any cost.
It is no surprise that China blocks any bills in the Security Council which Islamabad considers against its national interests. Does that make us friends?
Not quite but the winds are currently in Islamabad’s favor. When it comes to international relations, there are no friends, no foes; only national interests. Right now, Beijing’s plans has Pakistan in the primary role.
Let me break it down for you.
India, a country of more than a billion people is a huge market. Any country would be foolish to pass on it; China, as we know, is not. It will not jump into small matters between India and Pakistan fearing tense relations with India but if it comes to a choice between the two, Beijing’s pick would be the smaller nation.
Nine times out of ten, every country in China’s place would have sided with India if it came to an escalation, so why would it side with Pakistan instead?
The answer lies in China’s economic expansion plans (CPEC for starters) and its own border disputes with India. A strong India is never going to sit well with the People’s Republic. On a similar note, a weak Pakistan will be bad for business. Besides, the United States’ influence over India has been ever growing, China as a promising candidate for international hegemony needs a counter; so far it has played its cards well with Pakistan.
Bottom line: Pakistan needs not fear any escalation from New Delhi no matter how loud it gets over the situation in Baluchistan to repress the struggle for independence in Kashmir. China will veto any bills if it goes to the Security Council by any chance. Chances of escalation on the ground are as low as Tony Blair winning a Nobel Peace prize.