The Intercept reported on Sunday that “U.S. Helped Pakistan Get IMF Bailout With Secret Arms Deal For Ukraine, Leaked Documents Reveal”, which is its second damning disclosure in as many months after it revealed in August that the US did indeed encourage the ouster of its former premier in spring 2022. The latest leaks allege that Pakistan has been selling arms to the US for transfer to Ukraine since that summer and that the US pressured the IMF to bail Pakistan out this summer as a quid pro quo for that.
The sequence of events suggested by The Intercept’s last two reports adds credence to Imran Khan’s consistent claims that he was deposed through a combination of American meddling and internal subterfuge as punishment for his truly neutral stance towards the NATO-Russianproxywar in Ukraine. Once his multipolar government was replaced by pro-US proxies, Pakistan instantly reverted back to its traditional status as America’s top proxy in South Asia, following which it cut a deal for arming Kyiv.
Understanding the matter better
This whole time, however, its officials vehemently denied Indian media reports about its indirect weapons transfers to that country. Pakistan also abstained from anti-Russian UNGA Resolutions and continued trying to negotiate an ultimately unsuccessful energy deal with Moscow. In hindsight, those three moves were nothing but a ruse for misleading Russia and “saving face” before its so-called “iron brothers” in China in the hopes that they wouldn’t think that post-coup Pakistan “defected” to the US.
As it turns out, Pakistan has been secretly selling arms to China’s systemic rival for over a year already with the intent of perpetuating the same proxy war that Beijing has tried to freeze since February, which represents a blatant betrayal of its decades-long strategic partner. To add insult to injury, it allegedly pushed through the latest deal this summer in exchange for the US pressuring the IMF to bail it out, thus showing that Pakistan already decided on Western sources of aid instead of considering such from China.
This insight proves that Pakistan has been functioning as the US’ “Trojan Horse” for duping the Sino–Russo Entente ever since Imran Khan’s scandalous removal from office nearly a year and a half ago. At the same time as its officials were negotiating with Russia to import oil and abstaining from anti-Russian UNGA Resolutions alongside China, their country’s arms were being used by Ukraine to kill Russians and therefore undermine China’s diplomatic efforts to freeze the most dangerous conflict since World War II.
For these reasons, neither China nor Russia has any reason to trust Pakistan after The Intercept’s latest leaks, but their officials might still act cordially towards it in public for the sake of optics. Russia can easily disengage from Pakistan since those two hadn’t successfully reached any major investment deals during their prior rapprochement, but China is in a much more difficult position due to Pakistan hosting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project.
Although former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in May 2022 that Pakistan remains committed to CPEC, which former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed during talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping that November, it’s now known that they were lying. The first was in the process of clinching Pakistan’s first Ukrainian arms deal with the US for facilitating an IMF bailout while the second was continuing these sales when they took their respective trips to China.
If they truly considered CPEC to be crucial to their country’s 21st-century development, then they’d never have sold arms to China’s systemic rival in exchange for financial aid but would have instead focused solely on doing whatever might have been required to secure such aid from Beijing. This observation proves that Pakistan secretly pivoted to the US right after Imran Khan’s ouster, which means that its officials were lying to Foreign Minister Wang’s and President Xi’s faces about their commitment to CPEC.
Their mission was to deceive China into thinking that the former premier’s removal was a purely domestic affair so that it would remain oblivious to the fact that the US was clandestinely obtaining control over BRI’s flagship project by proxy. As a result of these deception operations, the Biden Administration pulled off an unprecedented power play against China that resulted in the US indirectly exerting influence over CPEC and thus holding tens of billions of dollars of Chinese investment hostage.
The People’s Republic is therefore in a dilemma since disengaging from Pakistan or at least decelerating the pace of its investments there to hedge against this newfound strategic risk could prompt speculation about the future of BRI while doing nothing keeps China vulnerable to US blackmail. Nevertheless, the restoration of Pakistan’s traditional status as the US’ top proxy in South Asia after Imran Khan’s ouster and the country’s relapse into IMF dependence means that CPEC investments aren’t safe.
Accordingly, China might soon be forced to informally cut its losses since continuing to develop a connectivity corridor that’s now under its systemic rival’s de facto control would be highly irresponsible. It might also second-guess the wisdom of continuing to arm Pakistan against India after The Intercept’s latest leak showed that Islamabad exploited this military support to sell domestically produced arms to Ukraine via the US, which prolongs the same proxy war that Beijing is trying its best to freeze.
The post-coup clique felt so comfortable with the deluge of arms that their country received from China for potential use against India that it didn’t think that Pakistani security would suffer by exporting what it produces at home to Ukraine for killing China’s Russian strategic partners at the US behest. The more that one dwells upon their strategic calculations, the deeper their betrayal of China becomes, which reinforces the claim that Pakistan is the US’ “Trojan Horse” in the New Cold War.
In spite of all this, China might still stay the course in relations with Pakistan, perhaps out of fear that gradually “decoupling” could lead to Islamabad concluding that it has nothing to lose by complying with Washington’s demands to destabilize Xinjiang. Regardless of whatever China chooses to do, The Intercept’s damning disclosure proves that Pakistan is once again doing the US’ geopolitical bidding, which destroys the goodwill and trust that Imran Khan cultivated for his country across the Global South.
Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. The article has been republished and the views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.