China to US: Hands off Pakistan

Barack Obama says that if the US has another chance to get a high-value terrorist target like Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, he’ll make the same call as he did earlier this month.  Not so fast, says China.  According to a report from India a few days ago, China has warned that an “attack” on Pakistan will be taken as an attack on China (via Pundit Press):

In the wake of the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”, a media report claimed today.

The warning was formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at last week’s China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington, The News daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying. China also advised the USa to “respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity”, the report said.

Chinese Premier Mr Wen Jiabao informed his Pakistani counterpart Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani about the matters taken up with the US during their formal talks at the Great Hall of the People yesterday. The report said China “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”. The two premiers held a 45-minute one-on-one meeting before beginning talks with their delegations.

The Chinese leadership was “extremely forthcoming in assuring its unprecedented support to Pakistan for its national cause and security” and discussed all subjects of mutual interest with Mr Gilani, the report said. Mr Gilani described Pakistan-China relations and friendship as “unique”. Talking to Pakistani journalists accompanying him, he said that China had acknowledged his country’s contribution and sacrifices in the war against terrorism and supported its cause at the international level. “China supported Pakistan’s cause on its own accord,” Mr Gilani said with reference to the Sino-US strategic dialogue where the Chinese told the US that Pakistan should be helped and its national honour respected. Mr Gilani said China had asked the US to improve its relations with Pakistan, keeping in view the present scenario.

Pakistan’s diplomatic pilgrimage to Beijing succeeded better than previously thought.  This came about the same time as the “gift” of 50 new jet fighters to Pakistan’s military.   While the US flexes its muscles in the wake of the OBL mission, Pakistan’s shopping for a less troublesome ally.  Not that China needed much prompting here, anyway, since both Afghanistan and Pakistan border China, and American operations in the region have to make Beijing nervous anyway.

This new doctrine from China will pose some difficulties for the US.  For instance, what about the Predator attacks on terrorists in the border regions?  Pakistan has officially protested these attacks while unofficially tolerating them.  If China is serious about its message, will they insist on an end to all operations within Pakistan from now on?  And how will China respond to an attack on Pakistan under a doctrine that’s not dissimilar from NATO’s charter?  Will they attack the US and start a war, or will they react only diplomatically?

This may have one salutary effect.  If Pakistan draws closer to China, then the US will have to draw closer to India, which George Bush started to do and which Obama, to his credit, has continued.  India is more of a natural ally to the US anyway.  However, China’s interference in the Af-Pak region will have serious implications for our ability to prosecute the war in Afghanistan.

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