It is only in the Pakistani media that violation of sovereignty is the focus of discussion rather than Osama’s comfortable living arrangement near an elite military academy. The rest of the world is focusing on Osama rather than the legality of the American operation in Abbottabad.
Probably it is a matter of taste that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani wanted to hear the same translated lecture from Chinese leaders that Senator John Kerry had given in Islamabad. Maybe it was easier in Beijing because Chinese lectures were (hopefully) directly translated into Urdu or Seraiki. President Asif Ali Zardari may have been given a similar dose in Moscow though the details of his achievements have yet to come out. Both had rushed to the Chinese and Russian capitals to prove their utility to the military brass after the embarrassing US operation in Abbottabad.
It is clear from the published reports that China has flatly told PM Gilani that it does not give budgetary support or cash transfers to countries. They promised some loans on favourable conditions, but this was then sent for approval to the Politburo of the Communist Party. This is an atypical Chinese diplomatic way of saying ‘no’ because such a loan could have been cleared quickly if need be. This simply shows that salvaging Pakistan’s economy is not a Chinese priority or that they take it as a waste of money.
The plan to rush to Beijing was as sane as not knowing that Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad near a military academy for the last five years. Probably, there is no method in Pakistan’s madness of decision-making processes. Idealising Pakistan’s strategic worth in global politics, Pakistan’s ruling elite is bereft of common sense. They thought once they announce to the Chinese and Russians that they are getting a legal divorce from the US, Beijing and Moscow would jump all around and shower Yuan and Roubles upon them. No one paused for a moment to think that both China and Russia, victims of jihadi terrorism, agree with the US on the point that terrorist networks must be rooted out of Pakistan. But we have become like street-beggars who develop a habit of asking every passerby for money.
Before PM Gilani had reached Beijing, a senior leader of the Chinese military had declared that his country will not confront the US over Pakistan. And why would China confront the US over Pakistan while its economic interests are heavily vested in the US? Moreover, has China ever confronted the US on any policy other than American policy regarding Taiwan? China has proved to be the wisest nation when it comes to its economic interests. They have economic interests in Pakistan as well but cannot lose the US market, which is their bread and butter. In addition, why would China confront the US for something which, ultimately, safeguards al Qaeda, the Taliban and other jihadi terrorist groups? It is only in the Pakistani media that violation of sovereignty is the focus of discussion rather than Osama’s comfortable living arrangement near an elite military academy. The rest of the world is focusing on Osama rather than the legality of the American operation in Abbottabad.
The Chinese know what the world is saying and are afraid to run into an embarrassing position if the US decides to bring its case against Pakistan harbouring terrorists to the UN. This is the reason that they told Mr Gilani:
One: Pakistan should normalise its relations with India, the US and the rest of the world. The Chinese were telling Pakistan that it is awfully lonely and cannot be supported just by Beijing if the rest of the world stands against it.
Two: the Chinese subtly chided Pakistan for not eliminating the madrassa networks that are producing terrorists. Privately, China has been asking Pakistan to take action against jihadi nurseries but this time they went public on this point.
Three: the Chinese told Gilani that the situation in Afghanistan is improving and Pakistan should not do anything that can stall it.
The Chinese have told Pakistan that they are on the same page as the US as far as the issue of terrorism is concerned and Pakistan should lower its obsession with India. Furthermore, the Chinese have advised that the US is going to be the only source of funds needed for budgetary support for Pakistan. China can invest in infrastructure projects but no cash transfers. Recent assignment of hydro projects to Chinese companies show that China is using its leverage to get better deals from Pakistan than it could if international bids were invited.
Now it is clear Mr Gilani, Zardari, and other lovers of the military cannot deliver much beyond staging fake dramas of patriotism. The military and its backers, the PPP and the PML-Q in particular, can present themselves on TV channels as a big power that can shoot down drones and stop the US from Abbottabad-type future operations, but this is all empty rhetoric. They can neither stop drones nor Abbottabad-like operations. Boasting for the media is one thing and actual military capability is another matter, where the Pakistan Air Force is no match for the US. And, China is not coming to Pakistan’s rescue even after multiple Abbottabad-like operations.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org