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Three can be company

As China and India expand trade corridors, Pakistan could use both to its advantage

After the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India and Pakistan, the analysts have tended to exaggerate the scope of what transpired according to their biases. In India, what Li said was more or less ignored and what China did not say in Pakistan was focused on. In Pakistan, the length of the China-India joint statement was ignored, compared to the skimpiness of the one issued from Islamabad.

The Chinese premier was clearly wooing India; and his counterpart, Manmohan Singh, was not averse to being wooed. Both agreed to take the bilateral trade to the $100 billion level, China helping build the India-China-Bangladesh-Burma road and likely promising to vote for India’s permanent seat inside the UN Security Council. Li linked the development of the western provinces of China, notably Xinjiang and Yunnan, with India’s Look East policy. The less trusting analysts in India warned China was acting against Indian strategic interests by helping Pakistan in the nuclear field and by setting up a naval base in Gwadar.

Over 80 per cent of the people in India don’t trust China and feel threatened by it; in Pakistan people trust China a hundred per cent. The message from an Indian strategic analyst was: “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needs to make it clear [to Mr Li] that China’s current nuclear policy towards India is hostile and unacceptable.” As if in reply, Munir Akram, former Pakistan ambassador to the UN, wrote: “India has been enabled by the US and others to pursue its nuclear ambitions in the belief that India’s capabilities can serve to ‘contain’ an increasingly powerful China. They will rue this strategic miscalculation at some future date.”

Ideological strangers and culturally alien, Pakistan and China are forced to use poetic metaphors to describe their bilateral equation. But that means nothing when you consider that China is willing to do more in India than in Pakistan in terms of investment. (Tragically, Pakistanis kill the Chinese wherever they see them in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Tribal Areas, which thwarts investment. Even the traditional Chinese restaurant-owning families are migrating to Canada.)

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