It is a popular point to make that Pakistan does not need the US because China will provide any aid we need and will not make demands on the government such as the American war on terror. This point usually goes alongside claims that terrorism will magically disappear when the Americans leave, even though it was here before they were. But there’s a good deal of reason to believe that this is not only fantasy, but backwards thinking.
China is a friend to Pakistan, that is certainly true. But China has no patience with militancy and extremism. The most recent example came just this week when China cracked down again on Muslim activists in Xinjiang.
Chinese officials have blamed Monday’s deadly attack at a police station in Xinjiang province on “terrorists” from the ethnic Uighur minority.
A local official told state media that one of the attackers had unfurled a banner with separatist slogans.
This latest incident comes two years after massive violence erupted between Muslims in Xinjiang and Chinese security forces.
Thousands of police and anti-riot troops later swept through the city, using teargas and water hoses to disperse crowds. “Now the whole city is on lockdown,” one witness said.
Chinese officials even threatened to close all mosques in the region to silence the uprising.
So let’s not fool ourselves – China has no patience with militancy, and will treat even its own citizens with an iron fist if its own security feels threatened.
If we believe that this is an internal issues only and that ‘all weather friend’ China will simply keep to themselves and not interfere in our own situation, we should think again. After all, it was China that ordered Lal Masjid raid was it not? Of course, this only makes sense. Sharing a border with Pakistan, China is not going to allow a rebellion to organise next door.
As a neighbor and growing world power, we would be poorly advised to alienate ourselves from China. It is easy to say that ‘all weather friend’ China will be there if we turn our back on America. But the truth is that China is not going to sit quietly while militant extremists use Pakistan as a play ground.
The biggest difference between Chinese and American reactions to terrorism, then, is that China will tell Pakistan what do when it threatens their own security, but if innocent Pakistanis are being killed, China will do nothing about it. America could easily go home and stop issuing visas thereby sealing its borders and securing itself against attacks. Instead it is sending its sons to die in the fight against the militants who are killing Pakistanis.
Obviously the Pak-US relationship needs to be revitalised. There is no question about that. But before we go scrapping relations with America and throwing all our hopes in with China, let’s take an unemotional look at the reality of the situation. No matter who our ‘most favoured partner’, if we refuse to face the facts and end militancy in our borders, our ‘all weather friend’ may turn out to be a perfect storm.