BASED on the country’s bitter experience in the past, Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Thursday, categorically stated that Pakistan would not join any Cold-War like blocs and instead would like to de-escalate tension between the United States and China.
Addressing the Islamabad Conclave 2021, which had the theme: “Peaceful and prosperous South Asia”, the PM cautioned in his keynote speech that the rivalry between the two world powers “is moving towards (another) Cold War and new blocs are (again) being formed.”
It is universally acknowledged that China is least interested in fomenting trouble with any country of the globe and is single-mindedly focused on progress and welfare of its people.
However, there are numerous moves on the part of the United States that highlight its Cold-War mentality towards China as attempts are continuously being made both at regional and global levels to encircle and counter China economically and militarily.
The original Cold-War between the United States and the formerly Soviet Union had ideological orientation but the emerging Cold-War mainly has economic and strategic dimensions.
There is thinking in Washington that China is emerging as a far broader strategic adversary than the Soviet Union ever was — a technological threat, a military threat, an economic rival.
Healthy competition is always welcome but attempts to impose specific values and systems on others or scuttle even purely economic pursuits like Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are reprehensible.
As against the policy of regime change, discriminatory sanctions and arms-twisting through institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, China is trying hard to build a community of shared interests and destiny and the working of its Infrastructure Development Bank is one such example of China’s sincerity towards cooperative engagement.
The Prime Minister has expressed the view that Pakistan should try to prevent formation of ‘blocs’ but this might be well beyond the capacity of the country to do but it can definitely choose the path of maintaining closer relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect and sovereign equality.
Though the Prime Minister did not explain what he meant when he said ‘people mislead on media’ (about possibility of Pakistan taking sides in the emerging Cold-War), it is believed he was referring to the impression being created by some circles that Pakistan declined to participate in the democracy moot hosted by the US President as Washington did not invite China and Russia and instead invited Taiwan.
There are also others who claim that the country’s decision was motivated by the indifference shown by the US leader during the last one year by not talking directly to the Pakistani leadership.
Whatever reasons and motives behind the decision to stay away from the moot, the fact remains that Pakistan cannot afford to take sides in diplomatic wrangles and conflicts as its one-eyed policy of putting all its eggs in the American basket cost the eastern wing of the country but the so-called 6th fleet never came for rescue. Pakistan has unbreakable relations with China which is investing billions of dollars in different sectors of the country’s economy and that too without any humiliating political and economic conditions.
Chinese assistance has helped accelerate the pace of socio-economic progress of the country, especially its backward and remote regions that would have, otherwise, remained on the least priority for decades to come due to financial constraints.
It is the only country that offers meaningful cooperation to Pakistan in peaceful uses of nuclear technology and at a time when other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are arming our rival – India – to teeth with dual use nuclear technology and equipment. Under these circumstances, it would be suicidal for Pakistan to accept any covert or overt counselling to keep itself at a distance from China.
At the same time, the United States is the prime destination for our exports and one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings/home remittances by overseas Pakistanis. We, therefore, cannot afford to sever ties with the world’s only super- power, jeopardizing our economic and financial interests.
No doubt, it is pretty difficult for a small country like Pakistan to maintain the desired level of equilibrium in relations with influential countries but each and every move on the foreign policy front should be well-thought-out so as to safeguard the interests of the country.
As before, using whatever leverage it has, Pakistan should continue making efforts to help its friends mitigate tensions in bilateral relations.