US-Pakistan Tensions: China’s Cautious Stance – Analysis


The Chinese media have started informing the Chinese people of the tensions in Pakistan’s ties with the US without any editorial comment so far. There have been no comments from the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry either till now.

On September 27, 2011, the “People’s Liberation Army Daily” carried a report of the State-owned Xinhua news agency datelined Islamabad stating that Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had gone to Saudi Arabia for talks with his Saudi counterparts.


The Xinhua dispatch said that the decision to send Lt. Gen. Pasha to Saudi Arabia was taken on the recommendation of the Corps Commanders of the Pakistan Army, who met at Islamabad on September 25, “to brief Saudi leaders on the Pakistan-U.S. tension.” However, the Pakistani military spokesman Maj Gen Ather Abbas denied that Lt. Gen. Pasha had gone to Saudi Arabia and insisted that Lt. Gen Pasha was in Islamabad.

The Xinhua report added: “Pakistan is likely to send envoys to other friendly countries in view of the tension with the U.S., sources said.”

The party-owned “Global Times” carried two reports of the AFP/Reuters news agencies relating, inter alia, to the unconnected visits of General James Mattis, the US CENTCOM Commander, and Mr. Meng Jianzhu, the Chinese Minister For Public Security, to Islamabad and the cancellation of the visit of Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), to London.

While the Chinese media has so far restricted itself to reporting the arrival of the Chinese Public Security Minister in Islamabad, the Pakistani media has given more details of the visit.

Among those he has already met are President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, Gen. Kayani and Gen. Khalid Shameem Wyne, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

It was reported that Mr. Jianzhu and Gen. Wynne discussed “the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region”. Mr. Jianzhu was quoted by a Pakistan Army statement as having praised “the role played by the armed forces of Pakistan in the fight against terror”.

Mr. Jianzhu was quoted by the Pakistani media as saying that China stood by Pakistan and reaffirming China’s support to Pakistan in the fight against militancy and for the promotion of regional peace and stability.

During his meeting with President Zardari on the night of September 26, officials of the two countries signed a number of agreements reportedly valued at US $ 250 million on economic and technical assistance, flood relief and rehabilitation of some damaged parts of the National Highways networks. Pakistani media reported that the Governor and the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan were among those present during the signing ceremony.

In reply to local journalists who asked whether the visit was connected to the tensions in Pakistan’s relations with the US, Mr. Rehman Malik said: “Let’s not talk USA here. I am here with my friend from China. China is always there for us in the most difficult moments. China has supported Pakistan at every critical juncture of its history. We are grateful to it.”

Mr. Jianzhu told local journalists: “We are celebrating 2011 as year of friendship following the completion of 60 years of friendship of China and Pakistan. I have come to Pakistan to further beef up ties”.

Thus, both sides were anxious to avoid giving the impression that Mr. Jianzhu’s visit was connected to the tensions in Pakistan’s relations with the US. According to reliable Pakistani sources, the visit had been arranged much before the eruption of the current tensions in Pakistan’s relations with the US and was connected to the year-long observance of the 60th anniversary of the setting-up of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Mr. Jianzhu is in charge of China’s Police and internal security and oversees co-operation in counter-terrorism with Pakistan—particularly against the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET) operating from sanctuaries in North Waziristan.

China would be as much interested as the US in effective Pakistani action against the sanctuaries of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan because the sanctuaries of the IMET are also reportedly located in the same area.

While strongly supporting Pakistan’s counter-terrorism record as it did after the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hide-out on May 2 last, China would avoid giving the impression of taking sides with Pakistan in its dispute with the US on the question of action against the Haqqani network. China will have nothing to gain by justifying Pakistan’s inaction against the Haqqani network. While avoiding any adverse ( to Pakistan) public comments on this issue, China would nudge Pakistan into acting against all terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan — whether of Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network or the IMET.

B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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