Rawalpindi to Beijing is quite a smooth air travel just across the Himalayan hump.
Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan has declared that China is his home away from home and he loves to be there as frequently as possible. Yousaf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan was in China thrice in the last 17 months to negotiate one deal or the other. Whenever Pakistan senses some trouble at the national level, its top echelon leadership rushes to China to ask them for help and China does not disappoint them.
The motivating factor behind this friendship lasting over half a century is India. There has been bad blood between China and India since late 1950s after Jawaharlal Nehru and his counterpart Chou En-lai failed to negotiate what belonged to whom around the practically unmapped and undemarcated border between the two countries. They fought a bloody war in 1962 that India lost.
China and India have been rivals on the international stage. China, therefore, preferred to encourage Pakistan, arm and equip her to keep India entangled regionally so that she has little time to think globally.
By the way, in furtherance of its anti-India and pro-Pakistan policy, the top leadership of China presented Pakistan 50 fighter jets on 20 May 2011 during the visit of Gilani to Beijing. In one of the classic diplomatic misunderstanding, the international defence critics were led to believe that Pakistan presented its biggest port, Gwadar on the South-West coast to China. Later the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of Chine had to issue a clarification that neither the port was offered nor China accepted it. Anyway, the diplomatic faux pas did create some bad blood between bosom friends of long standing. It happened at a time when China and Pakistan are celebrating their Year of Friendship.
THE THIRD ANGLE
The United States of America has been friends with Pakistan since the cold war years. Since India had refused to hold the American hand of friendship and preferred to go along with the Soviet Union, America and Pakistan became natural allies. Pakistan was the main beneficiary in terms of cash and armaments as well as strategic support in the United Nations and elsewhere. Whenever the Kashmir issue was raised in the Security Council, Pakistan banked on the support of America and was never let down. But for the support of the Soviet Union, India would have been sunk.
The diplomatic situation was such that Pakistan had the unflinching support of rival countries like USA and People’s Republic of China.
The international diplomacy is always in a state of flux. Every country pursues an international policy that is in furtherance of the national interests. America, during the presidency of Richard Nixon, determined that it would be in her national interest to make friends with China. America wanted it to be done in secrecy until some tangible results were available to show to the world. A country that is friendly with China and also with America was needed and Pakistan was a perfect choice.
President Nixon flew from Pakistan to China in perfect secrecy and the venture was a grand success. Pakistan won the gratitude of both America and China. The Triangle of Friendship was complete and therein lay no danger of a party getting shot.
The rise and fall of US and Pakistan friendship was, inter alia, linked to rise and fall of the national government in Kabul.
SOVIET INVASION AND AL QAIDA
One fine morning in 1979, the Soviet army crossed the Amu Darya and occupied Afghanistan. They had feared that a country of strategic importance was going into the western camp and, by invading and occupying the country, they had taken pre-emptive action. The Soviet occupation lasted ten years but they were the biggest losers in terms of manpower, armaments and international prestige. The biggest gainer was indeed Pakistan in terms of cash, armaments latest military tactics and international prestige. When the Soviet forces withdrew after a decade, Pakistan ruled Afghanistan.
Americans were determined to exterminate the Islamist terrorists this time and they brought in the NATO forces. Pakistan is ostensibly with the western allies but has been helping the Islamist guerrilla fighters on the quiet. Americans poured in a lot of money, and weaponry that was grabbed by Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the time Americans understood the game of Duplicity of Americans, it was too late. Not only that, America realised that Pakistan had mastered the dubious art of running with the hare and hunting with the hound simultaneously. Anyway, Pakistan lost credibility and was not to be trusted again. In fact in the American military circles, the word doing rounds was: Gen Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief is a liar and just cannot be relied upon. One can imagine what joint front to fight against the Islamic terror was in existence. TRUST was missing. Moreover the rank and file of the Pakistan army and junior ranks among the Corps of officers were radicalised and so could not be trusted.
The biggest slap on the face of Pakistan came when the US Intelligence revealed to big bosses in Washington DC that the biggest terrorist, Osama bin-Laden was hiding in the cantonment of Abbottabad. He and his three wives had been living there for five years plus and had the support of the Pakistani administration. Americans decided to take unilateral action against Osama bin-Laden and they used their Naval commandos to eliminate the biggest terrorist on earth. Of course, the Pakistanis felt slighted that they were ignorant of the presence of Osama on their soil and that the Americans did not even whisper into their ears before taking such a major step. The episode of Osama created a lot of bad blood between the two countries. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton flew in to ameliorate the hardship created by the Osama episode.
The meeting between the American top brass and the Pakistani top echelon in the third week of May 2011 was rather frosty. There was hardly any smile on any participant’s face. When the international press corps, specially the lensmen requested for a photo session, they were told coldly that there would be no photo opportunity. The writing was on the wall for everyone to read. The atmosphere of the meetings was not only frosty but also snowy. No sunshine anywhere.
The triangular bon-homie among America, China and Pakistan had all but collapsed and it was not only difficult but well-nigh impossible to retrieve the situation. Pakistan had understood it well that once the US withdraws from the battle scene, perhaps the troops trained by them and billeted in the Red Fort, Delhi would take over and run the show to the best of their ability. Once the fervour of patriotism is aroused among them, they would stick to their guns and fight it out with the Pakistani Taliban, come what may.
Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
UPVAN 609, Sector 29, Noida – 201303, INDIA. Mobile : 0091-9811173590.