PEKING'S 'CHINAMAN'S CHANCE' IN PAKISTAN? A COMMENT
"Pakistan has asked China to build a naval base at its south-western port of Gwadar and expects the Chinese navy to maintain a regular presence there, a plan likely to alarm both India and the US.
“We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar,” Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar, Pakistan’s defence minister, told the Financial Times, confirming that the request was conveyed to China during a visit last week by Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister.
Hitherto, China has shied away from moves that might alienate the US and Beijing’s neighbours, such as India, Malaysia and Indonesia. “China’s rise is a beneficial force for peace and we have no hegemonic ambitions,” said a Chinese official familiar with Beijing’s security policy.
But Christopher Yung, senior research fellow at National Defense University in Washington, said in a recent paper “the nature and degree of China’s access to out-of-area bases will be the ultimate indication and warning” of its eventual intention to become a global military power. A Pentagon official said: “We have questions and concerns about this development and [China’s] intentions. But that is why we believe it is important to have a healthy, stable and continuous military-to-military relationship.”
A senior Pakistani official familiar with Sino-Pakistani discussions on naval co-operation said: “The naval base is something we hope will allow Chinese vessels to regularly visit in [the] future and also use the place for repair and maintenance of their fleet in the [Indian Ocean region]....”
Kathrin Hille & Farhan Bokhari, "Pakistan turns to China for naval base," The Financial Times. 22 May 2011, in www.ft.com
The above story about the PRC possibly leasing and or building a naval base on Pakistani coastline, obviously is in part a result of the strain in Pakistani-American relations following the American incursion that resulted in the assassination of Bin Laden, earlier this month. And while as the Financial Times' diplomatic columnist, Gideon Rachman noted last week, the story received a good deal of attention in Chancelleries & Foreign Ministries of the USA and Asia, the question that I have is: would in fact the consequences that would result if the story were in fact true as bad as one is tempted to paint them 1? I for one think not. Why? Simply put, if in fact that PRC were to be take Pakistan up on the latter's invitation, then at that point the way would be clearly open for the Americans and their allies to withdraw completely from subsidizing the semi-failed state that is currently Pakistan. In which case the PRC could, nay would one would imagine be forced into assuming that same role, as a quid pro quo for the base transaction. And of course that is the same reason that I rather doubt that the Peking would be interested in taking up Pakistan's offer: simply put, it is unlikely that the PRC sees taking up the Pakistani tar baby as something which it would wish to voluntarily do. Au fond, the PRC is quite content to allow the Americans to do all of the heavy lifting in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area. And nothing that I can see, indicates that the Chinese are unhappy at this state of affairs. The fact that the PRC has never openly criticized the American / Western presence would seem to indicate the reverse in fact. Given the costs involved in taking up 'the White Man's burden', in Pakistan, I am willing to assume that the PRC will give an ultra-polite, ,'non possumus' to the Pakistani Prime Minister's offer. Which merely reinforces the point that per contra to those such as Anatol Lieven, who state that the West needs to indulge the Pakistani state apparatus in its dysfunctionality, terrorist subsidizing and all 2. On the contrary, it is only by pressing as hard as possible on the authorities in Islamabad that will result in the latter, in (possibly) reforming itself eventually. Which means that the situation requires more, not less cross-border raids and drone attacks. It is only by unrelenting pressure on the Pakistani army and government that one can see clear to a change in the current semi-failed state situation.
1. Gideon Rachman, "A Chinese Base in Pakistan," The Financial Times 23 May 2011, in www.ft.com.
2.Anatol Lieven, "How American Folly could destroy Pakistan," The Financial Times. 24 May 2011, in www.ft.com. An article which oddly enough differs substantially from his own piece earlier this month, where he urges that the USA demand the head of the ISI, inter alia. See: "A Faltering Bargain with Pakistan,"New America Foundation. 5 May 2011, in www.newamerica.net;