One of the factors adding to tensions emanating from the India-China border standoff is the China-Pakistan axis. It’s widely expected that should conflict break out between New Delhi and Beijing, Islamabad will open up on India’s north-western front in Beijing’s aid. For, Pakistan today is well on its way to becoming China’s vassal state. And the anchor of this new China-Pakistan axis is the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
CPEC may be a strategic imperative for China as it potentially solves one problem its leadership is obsessed by – the so-called ‘Malacca Dilemma’ whereby the vast majority of China’s energy imports pass through the narrow Malacca Strait, that could potentially be choked by rival powers. But the exorbitant costs of CPEC works will further increase Pakistan’s burgeoning debt, and perhaps enrich only a few Pakistanis on the take. Allegations of corruption have already surfaced against CPEC Authority’s chairman, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa.
The matter has forced President Xi Jinping to postpone his planned trip to Pakistan, indicating Beijing’s unhappiness with Pakistan’s military. It’s possible that some within the Pakistani army are concerned about China’s increasingly overbearing presence in Pakistan (suggestively compared by a Pakistani lawmaker to the East India Company). Pakistan has forced itself into this position because of its hostility towards India. But apart from this shared antipathy, it has little else in common with China. For instance, Islamabad proclaims solidarity with Muslims everywhere, and look what China’s doing to its Uighur Muslims. While this might fly in the face of the current common sense among the Pakistani elite, the only way it can extricate itself from its current predicament is to make peace with New Delhi. Else, it can choose Beijing’s embrace and be reduced to the status of Soviet bloc satellites during the last Cold War.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.