BEIJING — Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani arrived in China on Tuesday fora four-day visit, picking up some welcome diplomatic support at a critical moment in Pakistan’s relations with the United States.
The prime minister’s visit was planned as part of a long-planned celebration of diplomatic ties, but analysts said Pakistan is using it to hint that China is an alternative source of security and economic aid — a reassuring message for a nation angered and humiliated by the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“It is being used for show, for politics, for domestic reasons, to show to the Pakistani public that if relations deteriorate with the United States, China is there to swing in with diplomatic and other support,” said Andrew Small, a fellow with the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. “China is playing along to some extent because Pakistan is in sort of a tight spot at the moment.”
I love the New York Times. It takes them three paragraphs to say what other websites and news outlets never even bother to mention. Attention bloggers who would be journalists: this is how you do it. But I digress...
The irony in all this is our ties to Pakistan originally stem from the Cold War, when India was a lukewarm allied democracy (if not a cold enemy) and on friendly terms with the Soviets, and Pakistan, being India's mortal enemy, became our proxy in the region. This tie began in earnest in 1955 under the auspices of the old Baghdad Pact, which created CENTO and I won't bore you much with the details, except to say that when push came to shove in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war, the US punked out on its military and aid commitments.
This was the same agreement that sees Turkey and America as allies, by the way. The US and Pakistan have danced around alliances ever since.
This explains to an extent Pakistan's alliances with the Taliban. After all, if you have an ally of the weight of the US and that weight is not being thrown about in your favor, you're going to start extending hands to others.
Which brings us to today's story, which should be of some concern. I do not think China is about to use Pakistan as a bargaining chip with the US. There's really not much there against our interests.
China's interest in Pakistan is pretty clear: India. This is where the Times story falls a little short, but it's understandable. It's a tough bit to explain quickly.
India could one day soon be the dominant economy in the world. Right now, in terms of purchasing power, India ranks fourth (tenth by GDP), she has the world's third largest army, and nukes. It is the second largest country in terms of population (after China), with a birth rate that exceeds replacement rate (1.41%, by latest estimates. The world averages 1.13%. China is below 1%.)
China must see this as a threat to its dominance in the 21st century. By contrast, America, the top of the heap, is an aging country, whereas India's median age is somewhere in the mid-20s. It has a bright future ahead of it.
Too, Pakistan's interest in China has some overtones of the Indian threat. Pakistan has to be concerned, much like Mexico and Canada once were about the rise of America's might. India is a formidable foe, and might be able to dictate terms unilaterally to Pakistan, effectively outsourcing the way we outsourced our manufacturing and blue collar jobs.
Of course, Mexico and Canada didn't have nukes back then....