Following Trump’s tweet, China and Pakistan set for a tighter embrace
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Already its “iron brother,” China now appears set for an even tighter embrace of Pakistan, following a New Year slide in ties between Islamabad and Washington.
An Op-ed in the state-run tabloid Global Times posted late on Sunday, noted that China should pay more attention to the potency of its economic assistance to Pakistan “as ties are set to get closer amid hostility from the U.S.”
“After U.S. President Donald Trump used Twitter to slam Pakistan for harbouring terrorists, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday that it would suspend security assistance to Pakistan until the country takes decisive action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network,” it said quoting Reuters.
An article in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) had earlier noted that in South Asia “there is one clear winner from Donald Trump’s tweet tantrums this week: China, which suddenly finds its leverage over Pakistan multiplying as a result of the U.S. President’s mood swings.”
The rise in anti-American sentiments in Pakistan appears to be conflating with the perception of China as a more reliable ally. This is notwithstanding the recent differences between Beijing and Islamabad regarding some of the financial aspects of a hydro-power project under the omnimbus $57 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Not waiting for the shrillness of Mr. Trump’s New Year tweet to die down, Islamabad hit back with a potent riposte.
Pakistan’s central bank swiftly announced that it would use the Chinese Yuan (CNY) to settle bilateral trade and investment with China.
“The central bank’s decision is significant given Islamabad had been resisting this demand from China. But one tweet from Trump managed to achieve what months of intense pressure and lobbying from Beijing could not,” the SCMP article observed.
Mr. Trump’s tweet also played into the hands of the religious-right, now harbouring political ambitions in Paksitan’s elections next year. The Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) demanded the expulsion of the U.S. Ambassador during street protests in Lahore. In Karachi, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) — a religious part conglomerate of 40 religious parties and sectarian groups — burnt a U.S. flag and picture of Mr. Trump. The council will now hold multiparty conferences in Faisalabad on Jan. 12 and in Lahore on Jan. 13 against the U.S. threats to Pakistan.
In China’s officialdom, Mr. Trump’s verbal assault on Pakistan triggered a robust defence by Beijing of its all-weather ally. The Chinese foreign ministry credited Islamabad for its “prominent contributions” in countering terrorism, soon after the tweet.
It added, “China and Pakistan have maintained the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. China stands ready to further deepen cooperation with Pakistan in various fields to bring greater benefits to the two peoples.”
The Global Times article signalled that Pakistan would be justified in defining a new geopolitical calculus that covers China and Russia. “In these circumstances, it makes perfect sense for Pakistan to shift its foreign policy focus toward China and Russia,” it observed.
China, it said, will continue its economic support to Pakistan, which is its prime partner. China sees Pakistan as a prime partner “under the Belt and Road initiative, with land and sea projects worth billions of dollars [known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] under construction,” it observed.