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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Imran Khan’s difficult balancing act between the US and China

It would be a test of leadership and management for PM IK and his accompanying ’cowboys’ to maintain strategic equilibrium between a chameleonic Washington on one side, and a parsimonious Beijing, an inscrutable Moscow on the other - writes Dr. Ejaz Hussain, a London-based security analyst, in a hard-hitting piece!

Beijing Winter Olympics, conceivably, provide regional powers a serendipitous venue to accost and discuss their survival amid growing pressure from the US-led NATO states and their allies further afield.

The leaders of China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Pakistan are likely to debate their ‘hot’ regional security issues whilst watching ‘cold’ global sporting events.
They will have their eyes fixed on ice hockey, skiing, and bobsleigh—whereas—their lips and ears will remain fully engaged to tackle coercive acts of Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin—backed by their allies from Tokyo, Canberra, Ottawa, New Delhi, and Taipei.
I’m not here scrutinising the Washington-Moscow rivalry, nor I’m even aimed to investigate the ongoing Washington-Beijing altercation.

I’m not making a strategic audit of Turkey’s decision to buy more S-400 missiles from Russia despite being a NATO ally.

I’m also NOT evaluating the extent of Joe Biden’s concessions to restore the 2015 JCPOA by granting a credible sanction waiver to Iran, to serve regional peace and stability.
I’m here fully fixated on how PM IK will present, before TeamPutin and PartyXi, Pakistan’s critical issues related to it’s struggling economy, national security, and the challenges posed by growing regional strategic uncertainty.

Read more: North Korea slams US boycott of Beijing Winter Games 2022

Pakistan is ubiquitously situated in a tempestuous region where the US and it’s allies on one side, and China-Russia and their partners on the other, are engaged in forming the late 19th century Europe-like alliances and counter-alliances to seize regional primacy, if not hegemony. I envisage these internecine developments will put this region on the war path, once more.

Pakistan’s wish-list

It would be a test of leadership and management for PM IK and his accompanying ’cowboys’ to maintain strategic equilibrium between a chameleonic Washington on one side, and a parsimonious Beijing/an inscrutable Moscow on the other.
As per the wish-list of an ordinary Pakistani, it would be an ideal/highly desired situation that Joe Biden helps:

1) Pak get out of the FATF quandary,

2) Arrange for Pak an NSG membership,

3) Urge India to resolve the Kashmir issue through UN resolutions,

4) Consider Islamabad an equal trade partner,

5) Acknowledge Pak as the principal stakeholder vis-à-vis future of Afghanistan,

6) Release Afia Siddiqi and other Pak-origin prisoners languishing unjustly in US prisons for several years,

7) Recognise India as the prime suspect in perpetrating terrorism in Balochistan and KP.

8) Get implemented the UN and other global institutions’ credible reports on blatant/continued Indian state brutalities against the Kashmiri Muslims.

9) Brand the Modi-led BJP’s government as perpetrators of state terrorism,

10) Help the IK government recover the ill-gotten monies stacked by corrupt Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in the US, UK and European banks.

Read more: What PM needs to do to get it right in Beijing

But Joe Biden’s boys wouldn’t accept even half of these.

Quid pro quo between Beijing and Islamabad

On the other side—China means business in every ostensible favour or concession extended to Pakistan.

If CPEC is a help for Islamabad to overcome it’s decades old economic gloom—more than three-quarter of it is in the Chinese’s own benefit.

If the PLA has engaged India’s key military formations in the north—XIV, XV and XVI corps, then in return the ironclad Pak Armed Forces have engaged India’s Western and South-Western commands—making India perpetually vulnerable.

If Chinese PLAN has ambitions to make a sizeable presence in the Indian Ocean—by offering its Arabian Sea waters, Pakistan has embraced a huge maritime challenge vis-à-vis Saudi-led GCC and the US Fifth Fleet.

If Islamabad needs Beijing for its economy and security—Beijing is equally desperate to keep Islamabad on board.

It’s more like a quid pro quo between Beijing and Islamabad—working so far so good.
However, can PM IK convince the Chinese ruling hierarchy to be more humane towards their ethnic and religious minorities?

Does the Chinese leadership have audacity to get the regional economy de-dollarised—enabling at least the west-Asian states to trade in a non-dollar currency?

Does the Chinese ‘eternal’ President have chutzpa to snatch from the US the decades old coercive exceptionalism, by getting the IMF, WB and other Bretton Woods relocated to Asia?
If the answers to these questions are in a big NO—I’m afraid, no matter how powerful/well-equipped PLA is and how greater the size of the Chinese economy is—President Xi, not even in next twenty years, can overtake United States.

Read more: Beijing 2022: An Asian Story

As regards Russia—PM IK’s neophytic charabanc of novices may not impress upon President Putin to consider Pakistan as important as India is.

Pawan Kapoor, current Indian Ambassador to Moscow, has more powerful friends in Kremlin than Pakistan can imagine.

When Kapoor was in London, a decade ago, he cultivated close relationship with then Russian Ambassador to London, Dr Alexander Yakovenko—who is an important member of President Putin’s foreign policy team.

In September 2020, Pak’s charismatic CJCS, Gen Nadeem Raza, visited Moscow. He had detailed strategic discussions with his counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, resulting in signing of key agreements to enhance defence and security cooperation beyond attending the IMGs.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, during his April 2021 sojourn, reassured the continuity of Moscow-Islamabad enduring friendship and cooperation.
However, like China, Russia also looks towards Pakistan through pragmatic kaleidoscope.
In this situation, is the IK playing squad in Beijing capable enough to restrain India’s regional designs?

Can the team of IK’s self-proclaimed economists and phoney security theoreticians prevail upon their counterparts flanking Putin and Xi?

Read more: Pakistani skier confident to win hearts in Beijing Winter Olympics

Can IK easily cinch $5 billion from Beijing and Moscow?

Would our dynamic PM be able to entice even half a dozen Chinese investors to come and bankroll another $5 billion in Pakistan?

Do IK and his aides know how Putin’s Gazprom and Rosneft can help Pakistan overcome it’s perennial energy crisis?

Does PM IK have guts to sign agreements with Iranian leadership to enhance cooperation in railways, energy and the aviation industry?

If our high-level national team returns from Beijing empty-handed—it would have been better to watch the Beijing Winter Olympics on the tele.



Ejaz Hussain is a London-based analyst on South-Asian and Middle-Eastern security. He is an alumnus of Oxford, Durham, LSE, and King’s College, London. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.