Fast heating cold war
It is clear that Washington has decided to expose Beijing’s ‘designs’ as anti-west, whatever that means, and I now calling for the international community to isolate the latter. It’s biggest yes-man in the region is no doubt India, which is also at loggerheads with China, especially after the recent standoff in Laddakh region. Yet Pakistan needs to view the developing situation with caution, lest it gets dragged into the whole situation. It is, considering the circumstances, no surprise that China has just inked a multi-billion dollar pact with Iran, just when both are in the crosshairs of the Americans. China’s influence now stretches all the way from Russia to Iran, with Pakistan being a major pivot point in between.
China is also at the head of the two mammoth programs of the region – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and now the program with Iran. Together these should provide livelihoods to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people, and keep the region both stable and strong. Islamabad must also consider signing up with China for the Iran pact, considering that it shares large borders with both countries and any incremental trade is hugely to the advantage of the finance ministry in Islamabad and the common folk in Pakistan.
Both the US and India have vehemently opposed CPEC, which is one part of BRI but a very vital part at that. Without it the land-locked Central Asian Republics (CARs) cannot possible trade via the sea at Gwadar. Pakistan, of course, can not just facilitate trade but also charge a premium on the goods and traffic. If a dollar earned through that trade also means a dollar earned for Pakistan, then all the better. Pakistan has just had its economy battered by the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It needs all the help it can get with the revival. And China is usually our number-one stopping point whenever we are out to look for cheap money. It proved true only recently – just two years ago, to be precise – when the Imran Khan government came to power and needed easy money. Happily, our usual port of call did not disappoint us. And we got a hefty loan from Beijing, enough at least to keep us afloat in the near term. Everybody knows which side Pakistan will take in the fast-heating cold war between America and China, especially since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for a global coalition against Beijing. That is all the more reason Islamabad needs to tread carefully right now.