The friction between the US and China is currently the main issue on the international stage. China who until the eighties of the last century was not counted among nations that influenced and affected matters on a global level, has now found itself effecting the ambitions of major powers though retaining a regional focus.
China has sufficient weight to blunt the policies of today’s superpower, America, at least to some extent, within part of the Eurasia theatre. Projections have been made predicting that China will become the largest economy by 2028. China’s economic clout and influence is being felt in places from Africa to Latin America and from Australia to Europe. Recently, China signed a trade agreement called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of fifteen member states. Members of the RCEP make up nearly a third of the world’s population and account for almost 30% of global gross domestic product.
The new free trade bloc will be bigger than both the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement and the European Union. The combined GDP of potential RCEP members surpassed the combined GDP of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) members in 2007. China is challenging the United States in the ongoing 5G technology race and strengthening military presence within its own waters.
This situation is one for Muslims living in Pakistan to consider carefully, given Pakistan is the only Islamic nuclear power that borders China and is a key ground for the great Islamic awakening that has become prominent in Islamic regions from Indonesia to Africa.
As far as the current regional political order is concerned, the United States is expanding its influence in India and wants to use India to limit China’s power. The United States would also like to see India counter Chinese influence in Asian countries and for it to increase its presence in Chinese waters, effectively becoming a barrier to China’s regional ambitions. To some degree, the United States has eliminated India’s major military headache by making Pakistan’s withdrawal from Kashmir possible through Pakistan’s military and political leadership. Pakistan is helping India to emerge in the region by exercising restraint over the Modi’s aggression in Kashmir, even though India cannot afford any war at present. It is currently in the strategic interest of the United States to prevent any major war between India and Pakistan, so that India’s focus remains on China and India’s economy is not in any way impacted as a result of war.
In this context, for the sake of its own regional and economic benefit, the United States is happy to allow and aid the developments between China and Pakistan, such as avoiding a war between Pakistan and India. Thus, the US does not want to completely expel Chinese presence from the region. Instead, it is willing to accept China as a stakeholder, but on the proviso that this does not directly conflict with US policy, and any Chinese interference remains within the boundaries and limitations it has set. For example, the US is keen for China to view the ongoing talks in Afghanistan in a positive way and accept the resulting political setup, given militancy in Afghanistan itself is a potential problem for internal peace in the Muslim populated areas of China, adjacent to Afghanistan.
It is important for the United States that Pakistan continues to rely on it in terms of its political setup, weapons, military courses and technology, and that Pakistan’s economy continues to be dependent on the US and the global institutions it has created, such as the IMF. Additionally, it wants to maintain the strong affiliation Pakistan’s elite and their offspring have with US and European civilization. It is in the interest of the United States to keep Pakistan weaker, compared to India, in terms of military and economic strength. And there is no indication from Pakistani rulers that they are willing to move against this American plan.
Chinese investment in Pakistan will not change this status quo. It is in accordance with the United States’ own calculations that CPEC is by no means a game changer for Pakistan’s economy. Despite being a rival to the US, China has invested in a supply line through a country that is under the control of the United States, politically, militarily and from a strategic and foreign policy perspective. This makes the supply line vulnerable. The situation can change in China’s favor only when it either replaces the United States in terms of the influence it can bring to bear, or at least seriously attempts to do so, but there are no signs of that at present.
In this global scenario, what has been the behaviour of Pakistan’s rulers? Do they have any policy to help Pakistan rid itself of the dominance of the US, a nation defeated in Afghanistan and internally divided? Do they have any vision to put Pakistan on the path of autonomy, by protecting it from greedy Chinese colonialism and emerge as a force by abolishing the influences of foreign powers?
Pakistan’s foreign policy, if it is even considered that Pakistan has an independent foreign policy, has always had a very limited vision. The main focus is the patronage of a strong country for itself in competition with India, and to achieve some benefits and softness in relationships by fulfilling the interests of the colonialist powers in the region. Though it is the rising power of the region, China cannot oppose the US by pressuring India in any Pakistani-Indian conflict, thereby winning concessions for Pakistan. China is strongly tied to the established American world order on the basis of self-interest and is exploiting the resources of Africa and other countries. China cannot free Pakistan from the exploitation of Western companies and global financial institutions. The CPEC plan is clearly unable to change this situation. China did not oppose the American moves made against Pakistan under the pretext of FATF, ignoring Pakistan’s national interest and instead keeping in view its own regional interests.
In light of this, despite public claims of Pak-China friendship, Pakistani rulers continue to occupy themselves with appeasing US, the same US that via the pro-American Narendra Modi has the ability to influence India, and yet on the most important issue of Kashmir, it has chosen to throw its full weight behind India and completely ignored Pakistan’s national interest.
Instead of looking East or West, the need of the time is for Pakistan to utilize its Islamic, military and geographic capabilities, which due to short-sighted rulers, have never been used for the benefit of Pakistan’s Muslims. If the United States can use these capabilities of Pakistan to defeat Russia in Afghanistan and then, with these same capabilities, broker a favourable deal in Afghanistan in the so-called fight against terrorism, why can’t these capabilities be used for the interest of Muslims and Islam in the region? It is certainly easier to convince the mujahideen of a ‘Great Plan’ that involves an Islamic Pakistan and Afghanistan, unified and free from differences, with an objective of becoming a regional and then global power, then to force them to compromise with an occupying power.
Helping the United States bring the Taliban to the negotiating table indicates that Pakistan’s widespread influence, in the event of the establishment of a Caliphate in Pakistan, can give Afghanistan and Central Asia a new political and geographical vision and create a new center of power in the world, that amalgamates the whole Islamic world and changes the global status quo.
To achieve this, Pakistan must adopt a policy of completely rejecting both American and Chinese colonialism, breaking away from a history of slavery to colonial powers, establishing the Islamic ideology at the state level. It must move now, making use of the tide of awakening in favour of Islam in the Muslim world and the prevailing regional strategic situation. A sensible political leadership that is knowledgeable of the international situation, as well as aware of the immense power of the Islamic ideology, alone can accomplish this objective.
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Usman Adil – Wilayah Pakistan