By Sankar Ray
Between an article, ‘A letter from Prime Minister of Pakistan: Pakistan and China, iron brothers and strategic partners – today and forever’ published in Global Times, state-run English daily in Beijing on 30 January 2021 and the forthcoming visit of Imran Khan Niazi to Russia next week, the trapeze of a new bend of diplomacy of ‘miltablishment-dictated government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is more than visible and keenly watched.
He begins his article, hailed by the Communist Party of China, reminding the global diplomatic community that Pakistan was the first Muslim country that recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1950, set up diplomatic ties next year and remained ‘the most vocal supporter of the lawful rights of China in the United Nations’ . All this sprouted what he called an “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.” No less important was Pakistan’s role in the famous “secret” visit of Henry Kissinger, then US National Security Advisor paving the success of ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ that had ‘a decisive impact on East-West relations’, he claimed..
The Pakistani PM wrote crystal clear about ‘deep mutual trust, understanding and commonality of interests in Islamabad-Beijing – relationship and its ‘unique, time-tested, and ironclad brotherhood. Pakistan has been not only a staunch endorser of the “One-China Policy”, but consistently supported the position of China on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and South China Sea matters. However, he keeps mum on China’s policy in action towards Ulghur Muslims in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where thousands of those ethnic Muslims are interned and languished in Laogai’s – Chinese gulags..
A fortnight before the article was published, the Kremlin press service informed of Pakistani premier’s telecom with the Russian President Vladimir Putin underscored Russia’s broad support to Pakistani society and the Muslim world, attuned to Putin’s words “on the inadmissibility of any actions, under the pretext of freedom of expression, impairing the dignity of any religious, ethnic or social group.” Moscow was never so openly in solidarity with Islamabad during the Soviet regime. King Khan will be first Pakistani PM in 23 years to go on a bilateral visit to Russia. The last visit was by Nawaz Sharif to Moscow in March 1999.
The PT-I supremo’s visit sets about a game changer in favour of Pakistan, given the dynamics of regional geo-strategic realignments. India’s era of camaraderie with the Russians during the years of post-Stalin USSR (to be precise, the seeds of friendship were sown at the 19th Congress of now-defunct Communist Party of Soviet Union in the report to the Congress by Georgy Malenkov who praised Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s stand on the Korean war) is now a thing of the past, a direct fall out of burying of India’s independent foreign policy of solid commitment of non-alignment.. Strengthening of bilateral ties, Afghanistan situation, including talks of defence cooperation and commitments to take forward the 1100 kilometres-plus north-south gas pipeline are on the agenda. Setting up of the pipeline is aimed at facilitating transfer of imported gas from the port city of Karachi to the load centre in Pakistani province of Punjab.
Diplomats and foreign policy experts and academia, specialising in south Asian matters are keen on Islamabad’s breakthrough of simultaneous befriending of China and Russia and keeping the US administration in good humour as far as admissible in the frame of the Beijing-Islamabad axis. The US President Joe Biden is yet to have a telephonic discussion with Imran Khan after the former assumed office. All this compels Washington to keep vigil on the moves of Imran Khan in the south Asian political chessboard.
Islamabad is unfriendly with India, specially the present regime with Narendra Damodardas Modi for the latter’s creation of a traumatic life for India’s Muslims as never before. It is against boycott of Winter Olympics opening in Beijing at the call of USA as India did.. But at the same time the Pakistani premier keeps his offer of Islamabad’s good offices to resolve differences between the USA and China to avert what Imran Khan perceives as a potentially new “Cold War” , assuring that that Pakistan would not side with any bloc. But \western diplomats seldom expressed faith in Pakistan’s words in the arena of foreign policy and diplomatic moves.
Significantly enough, Putin is critical of the criticism of the USA and Britain for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing, accusing them of politicising sport and violating the Olympic charter, whose motto is peaceful competition among nation He , asserted during his visit to Beijing earlier this month. “Together (with China) we oppose the politicisation of sport and demonstrative boycotts. We support traditional Olympic values: equality and justice first of all”, he stated. India apart, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania would not send officials to Beijing at the opening ceremony as a gesture of protest at human rights abuses by the China. The White House snapped fingers at China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang” and accused the totalitarian rulers of China of carrying out “genocide” against the Uyghur Muslim minorities.
The cricketer-turned-premier of Pakistan is one-up in diplomacy over Narendra Modi who boats that he has catapulted India to a new height of Indian foreign policy. On border conflicts, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bravado is against Pakistan only but while facing China. Modiji and his ministers keep mew-mewing while complaining against China for intrusion of Peoples Liberation Army. Indian establishment however threatens Pakistan of aggression on identical issues. (IPA Service)