– Analysis: China to keep Pakistan embrace at arm’s length
By Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING: (Reuters) – Pakistan, facing a crisis with the United States, has leaned closely to longtime partner China, offering its “all-weather friendship” with Beijing as an alternative to Washington.
But Pakistan will be disappointed if it hopes to replace American patronage with the same from China.
While China does not welcome the U.S. presence near its border, it wants stability on its western flank and believes an abrupt withdrawal of Washington’s support for Pakistan could imperil that. It also does not want to upset warming relations with India by getting mired in subcontinent security tension.
Maintaining that delicate balance, China will continue supporting economic cooperation with Pakistan but go slow on defense cooperation. While outwardly all smiles and warm pledges of friendship, China will quietly keep things at arms length.
“I think they see what’s going on in the U.S.-Pakistan front at the moment as reason to tread very carefully,” said Andrew Small, a researcher at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Brussels who studies China-Pakistan ties and often visits both countries.
“They are taking extra care to make sure that what’s going on in the relationship is correctly understood, not reflecting any willingness to rush in or fill the gap or exploit differences.”
Pakistan’s brittle relationship with the United States, its major donor, has turned openly rancorous. Washington accused Pakistan’s powerful ISI spy agency of directly backing the Afghan Taliban-allied Haqqani network and of providing support for a September 13 attack on the U.S. mission in Kabul. ….
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