Pakistan, wary of fading support from the US and ostensibly stung by American suspicions following the death of Osama bin Laden, appears to be jumping into a Chinese orbit with unusual enthusiasm. From The Financial Times:
Whatever the Chinese equivalent is of Kool-Aid, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, appears to have been drinking it. During his recent state visit to Beijing, from where he returned with a promise of 50 fighter jets, he lavished praise on China. “We are like one nation and two countries,” he said, comparing Pakistan’s “Islamic socialism” to the thoughts of Mao Zedong. China, he enthused, “was the only voice of reason in international affairs” ….
Contrast the finger-pointing from Washington with the soothing language coming from Beijing. An editorial in the Global Times, an official tabloid, praised Pakistan for its brave fight against terrorism. Indeed, since 2001, some 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed in domestic attacks, the equivalent of a September 11 2001 every eight months. “US media criticism indicates that it does not see Pakistan as a real ally that deserves respect,” the Global Times said. China, by contrast, “had set an example for the west on how to treat Pakistan as a sincere and co-operative partner”.
Islamabad is certainly appreciative. In Beijing, Mr Gilani asked China to take over the operation of Gwadar port, suggesting it could be upgraded to a naval base for Chinese use. (That has only served to deepen India’s fears that China intends to encircle it with ports strung from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka.) Pakistan already has trade with China of $8.7bn, against only $5.4bn with the US. Now it wants Beijing to build nuclear power stations and dams.
This is something new. Aside from pariah states, such as North Korea and Burma, few countries have considered China powerful enough to play off against the US. Certainly, many Asian countries have tightly tethered their fortunes to China’s economic bandwagon. But virtually all have sought counterbalancing security ties with the US, still a dominant force in the Pacific. Now Pakistan is intimating that China, as well as being the economic partner of choice, may be a more reliable security partner too.