By Farman Nawaz
“Mr. ambassador you suggested that Pakistan and India must negotiate the Kashmir issue while China demonstrates the use of force against Taiwan”. It was the question raised by a student of Peshawar University of Pakistan during a visit of students to Chinese embassy in Islamabad in 1999. Chinese Ambassador Mr. Lu Shulin smiled and said, “we don’t demonstrate force against the Taiwan but against the forces which brings fleets to the premises of Taiwan. Taiwan is not an occupied territory and the world also accepts Chinese claim about Taiwan but Kashmir is internationally accepted disputed territory and previously Pakistan has fought wars on this issue too, that’s why we recommend negotiations to settle this issue peacefully.”
Almost one and a half decade back the recommendation of Lu Shulin was appealing, keeping in view the regional stability, but general viewpoint in Pakistan was contrary to this approach. It was the time when Pakistan and India had fought the Kargil war and tested their nuclear weapons as well and peace was fragile indeed. Taliban were in control of Afghanistan and western border of Pakistan was secure. The heroic operation of Kargil was still fresh in the minds of common Pakistanis.
But now situation has changed and Pakistan official stand is of fruitful negotiations with India. Western border of Pakistan is more vulnerable to threats as compared to Eastern border and common Pakistanis now feel the gravity of the situation too. Though still common Pakistanis are reluctant to differentiate between the real and perceived threats on the western border but it is a fact that the concentration is shifted from East to West.
In the midst of turmoil the new episode in South Asia started by economic corridor between China and Pakistan has started a new debate. It is feared that this economic corridor will strengthen the concept of divided Kashmir. For the same reason weak aspects like the protection of this corridor from natural calamities as well as local terrorist organizations are also highlighted. On the other hand Pakistani media has a positive approach towards this new development. Doesn’t matter what the opponents and supporters of this project are knitting but ultimately the developments in the region and establishment of this corridor will surely bring China to deal with such issues that so far she was trying to be tackled wisely or buried till a proper time approaches.
So far China’s official stand about the Kashmir is that it is a bilateral dispute and must be solved by India and Pakistan. Similarly China’s viewpoint about Taliban is of engaging them in negotiations. So far China never opposed negotiations with Taliban. Certain segments also claim that the Sino-Pakistan relations have so far guided the Chinese policy on Afghanistan. However Chinese policy of noninterference is the key feature in shaping its policy towards Kashmir, Talibanisation and Afghanistan.
However the new scenario after withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan can change the minds of policy makers of China and Pakistan. Civil war like situation either in Afghanistan or Pakistan will directly have an effect on the mutual interests of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Chinese projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan are prone to terrorist’s attacks. In Pakistan several Chinese workers and engineers are targeted. The recent incident of killing of ten coastal guards at Gawadar is such a threat to Chinese projects that must catch the attention of policy makers.
Regional issues like terrorism or India Pakistan tangle can directly affect the peace and ultimately the economies of the regional countries. Any misshape in Pakistan or Afghanistan will have a long lasting affect too on the economies of China, India, Iran and Central Asian countries. Though there are very rare chances of any big upheaval but if the counties in turmoil will not find any regional solution then obviously a time will come that these countries will look towards the international players for the solution of their problems and ultimately this arbitration can lead to economic cooperation.
In the absence of regional solution for the problems of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the international players got a chance to start living among us. The revival of extremism and separatism in this region has roots in the foreign domination too. Nationalist extremist can be handled in one way or the other but extremists whose loyalties are for sale can become a permanent headache for the region. Before 9/11 Afghan Taliban were in contact with China but the conditions put forward by both sides could not be fulfilled. China demanded surety about removal of safe heavens for Uighur militants and Taliban demanded political recognition. Though this deal could not be reached but it is a fact that Afghan Taliban were willing to be in contact with China. On the other hand Pakistani Taliban have attacked Chinese several times in Pakistan. Such groups can become threat to the mutual interests of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Some segments argue that India and Pakistan inclusion in SCO will make the SCO bound to handle the Kashmir issue however SCO is not in a position to handle problems like Kashmir or terrorism. Business and politics go together. Any power failed politically cannot compete economically. Regional players will have to demonstrate their political strength to settle the regional issues and to keep the regional countries hovering around them. Economic projects initiated without solving regional issues will have short life span. Peaceful solution of Kashmir, Baluchistan, Waziristan and Afghanistan issues will ultimately give strength to China, Iran and Russia to settle their internal uprisings peacefully. Otherwise uprisings in Kashmir, Baluchistan,