Pakistan leans on China in face of US slams

By Shastri Ramachandaran
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, May 16, 2011
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First impressions often tend to be lasting ones. There were many first impressions I gathered during my recent first visit to Pakistan. At the invitation of Pakistan's Ministry of Information, for eight days, I, along with eight other journalists, travelled to several cities.

Of the four themes that figured through the program, predictably, Pakistan's war against terrorism and India-Pakistan relations topped the agenda. But more off than on the record was Pakistan's troubled ties with the US, worsening by the day. On the margins, outside the frame of formal interaction, a topic of much interest was Sino-Pak relations.

In Lahore, the agreements signed during Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's "successful" five-day visit to China from April 18 made headlines, but was routine nevertheless.

So, when Foreign Ministry officials and others spoke of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's visit to China from May 17, no eyebrows went up. After all, it was part of the year-long celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of Sino-Pak ties.

Few expected that, within a matter of days China-Pakistan relations would evoke great interest and greater speculation worldwide.

When the US struck at Bin Laden, the world erupted in jubilant applause and Pakistan came under severe fire. Pakistan was pilloried as the fount of global terrorism.

China alone supported Pakistan and stood by it in the face of global opposition. China and Pakistan had completed a strategic dialogue on May 13 to deepen cooperation on counter-terrorism. True to its stance, in the aftermath of Bin Laden's killing, China reaffirmed its cooperation with Pakistan to combat terrorism. China focused on stability in Pakistan, defended Pakistan's record of fighting terrorism and criticized the Obama administration for violating Pakistan's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

China drew the world's attention to Pakistan's sacrifices and sufferings in combating terrorism. Pakistan could not ask for more at a time when it feels besieged, and relations with the US have hit a new nadir.

"Pakistan is again in trouble, in a difficult situation. What it urgently requires is allies' support. And, among allies, Chinese support is critical to its lifeline," observed Amna Yusaf Khokhar, a research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) in Islamabad.

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