Dr Ejaz Hussain
The recently concluded BRICS Summit hosted by Beijing turned out to be nightmare for Pakistani authorities who were already in a state of shock over the withdrawal of the Chinese and Indian forces from the much hyped Doklam zone. The latter marked not only strategic and diplomatic maturity on the behalf of both Chinese and Indian top leadership, it also paved the way for Indian Prime Minister Modi to attend the mentioned summit of these five emerging regional economies. The BRICS Summit Declaration dropped bricks on Pakistan for the latter, though not mentioned by name, was held responsible for hosting (banned) militant organisations such as Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Such organisations, believed to have been involved in terror attacks on the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had already received censure from the US and its allies only recently. The summit declaration not only confirmed what the Trump administration echoed but also highlighted the need to eradicate terrorism from the South Asian region with geographical proximity with both Russia and China.
The latter are on the same page on fighting terrorism on their territory and, to some extent, neighbourhood. The Russians, for instance, launched many a military operation to curb militancy in Chechnya. China, on its part, views the Central Asian militant organisations as a threat to its southwestern region. In fact, one of the purposes of the proposed economic corridors, of which CPEC is one, is to help the underdeveloped regions such as Xinjiang develop socioeconomically and, thus, shun violent means for negotiation with Beijing. In other words, it is not necessarily the Indian pressure that made the BRICS, in particular, and China, in general, mention Pakistan based militant elements. However, India, of course, would have pushed China and Russia to pursue such a policy (dis)course which, if seen holistically, befit their respect domestic policy on military threats from the non-state actors.Moreover, by having resolved Doklam issue with India, Chinaâ€™s regional policy has reflected bias in favor of geo-economics than geo-politics. In order to sustain and enhance its economic growth along with feeding its huge population, Beijing is not, and has never been, in the mood to enter into conflict or war with, for example, India or the US. Nor do the latter wish to waste resources in any unnecessary war with China. Rather, India wants to excel in, for example, manufacturing sector and export goods to China than to stay on as a recipient of cheap Chinese products. At the moment, the balance of trade is heavily in favour of China where the latter gets ca. 80 billion US$ as compared with Indiaâ€™s share of around 8 billion US dollars.Besides, China is projecting itself as an economic (and, to some extent, military) power to the world particular US, Japan and other rivals. From this logic, it is against Chinaâ€™s long term strategic interest to keep supporting Pakistan over terrorism related matters. In the United Nations, where the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil, Germany, and, now, the US is likely to press for hard measures against individuals, groups and states believed to have been involved or supportive of terrorism, will it be feasible and rational for China, if not Russia, to offend all these countries, with whom it trades in billions, for the sake of Pakistan? That must be challenging question for Pakistani leadership, though the Chinese did provide us with their answer to it. We should stay mindful of these developments and never get carried away by emotions. Last but not the least, our civil-military leadership ought to assume the Chinese statement favouring Pakistan post-BRICS Declaration objectively as they might serve only diplomatic purpose and mean little in concrete terms. Nevertheless, this is not to suggest China-Pakistan relationship is over or Pakistan should disengage with Beijing. Rather, our side must try to understand China as China understands itself.
It is a tough task which requires skills, resources, will and, importantly, space for independent and critical research done conceptually and empirically. Unfortunately, we as a state and society failed to produce more than two China scholars in past 70 years and miserably failed to establish China focused think tank.
The so-called China centres mushrooming these days are but shops to sell poorly research content in exchange for some RMB. By contrast, India is way ahead in this respect and is getting benefited. The end to Doklam standoff is just one example. It is time Pakistanâ€™s foreign policy is shaped by its well-trained scholars than semi-educated televangelists and people with a fixed mindset. Until this happens, bricks will continue to fall on us from here and there.