Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Geopolitical Equation in Asia

After the dramatic announcement of killing of Osama Bin Laden, a big change in the geopolitics of Asia has become evident centering the dilemma in the relations between Pakistan and the United States. Through this incident, signals are being received regarding a visible role of China and a shrink in the influence of the United States in this region as a split has been created in the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. The plummeting in the Washington-Islamabad relations first came to the limelight through the arrest of a US contractor Raymond Davis, who is known as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spy, for his involvement in the killings of two Pakistani citizens. After languishing for three months in prison, Raymond Davis was freed in March with the payment of blood money.
Since then, it was being thought that the US pressure on Pakistan would be mounted. Exactly this happened. Subsequently, the United States claimed that their commandoes have killed Bin Laden in a raid. Pakistan has described the raid as a blow to its sovereignty. However, the United States has brought an allegation against Pakistani intelligence agency for providing shelter to Bin Laden. Though a number of questions have surfaced centering this raid -- whether Bin Laden was really killed in the attack or he was killed much earlier or anybody else was killed in the name of Bin Laden.
War on Terror
Centering this incident whatever it might be -- the actual Bib Laden killed or no -- Pakistan is trying to come out of the influence of the United States, a long time friend of that country. Within 15 days of the killing of Bin Laden, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited China. The Chinese leaders categorically announced that Pakistan has significant contribution to the war on terror. This country is also a victim of terrorism.
The Western countries must show their respect to the sovereignty of Pakistan. The Chinese leaders further announced that Beijing will consider any attack on Islamabad an attack against it and China will always stand beside Pakistan. This announcement from Beijing in the face of an intense pressure from the west was not only a matter of ease for Islamabad, but a clear indication that China support Pakistan at the time of difficulty.
Building Gwadar Port
Massive steps were taken to enhance military relations between China and Pakistan during this visit of Gilani. The area of cooperation also includes transfer of military technology side by side with military assistance. China has assured Pakistan of supplying more than 50 JF Thunder Aircraft within a shortest possible time. In addition, the two countries have reached an agreement on purchasing frigates for the navy and training on operating submarines. Seventy-five percent arms of Pakistani Armed Forces comes from China. Very soon 260 Chinese fighter planes will be added to the Pakistan Air Force. It is being though that Pakistan is going to be a member of Shanghai Cooperation from an observer at the behest of China. And this might add a new dimension to China-India relations in the coming days. During Gilani's visit to China this time, the most important military on the agenda was the proposal of setting up a naval base at Gwadar Seaport, built on assistance from Beijing.
China and India have long been involved in a race for expanding influence in the India Ocean. Comparatively India navy is now stronger in the India Ocean. It can be said India has its hegemony on the sea. An intensive relationship of cooperation of India navy with the US Navy has been added to this. China has to import its fuel oil from the Middle East through the narrow strata of Malacca under the India-US naval surveillance. During any adverse situation the India-US naval power may close down this supply route for China. Alternative sea routes are very essential for China. Beijing is going to be achieved this opportunity this time completely. Gwadar seaport has multifaceted military significance. Virtually this port will be the main center for China to maintain its influence in the southern seacoast of Asia. From there China will be able to maintain its surveillance on the Indian and US Naval Forces.
Gwadar Seaport is very close to the seacoast of Oman. The distance of the Persian Gulf from here is not so far. Before 1958, Gwadar was under Oman. Later, the area was handed over to Pakistan. In 1973, US President Richard Nixon visited Pakistan. During the visit, the then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto requested Richard Nixon to help building a seaport at Gwadar. Bhutto proposed that Pakistan would ensure benefit of the US Navy from Gwadar if the port was built with assistance from his country. But Nixan did not make any response to that proposal.
Failing to get any support from the US for building the seaport at Gwadar, Pakistan did not abandon its plan in this regard. Later, they sought helps from China in this regard. The work on building the seaport began in 2002 with assistance from China. China invested $200million for construction of the seaport. The first phase of the construction of the port ended in 2006. Singapore Port Management Authority was given the responsibility of running the port. Now China will be given the responsibility of running the port from Singapore Port Authority. A decision has been taken to review soon the port management by Singapore Port Authority.
The work on establishing direct road and railway communications with China from Gwadar seaport has begun so that oil tankers could be transported to Chinese territory from the port. China began the expansion of road network on Karakoram Highway from Gilgit in Pakistan to Xinjinag province of China. In 2006, Islamabad and Beijing signed agreement to build a road from Kashgar in China to Abbottabad in Pakistan. The two countries took the decision of constructing an alternative land route in consideration that Karakoram Highway might be risky for bigger containers. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited China in July 2010. During his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a decision was taken to set up 3,000 km railway line from Kashgar to Gwadar.
Security experts believe China will use this port equally both for civil and military purposes. Chinese ships will not anchor at the port only, but its submarines use the same as a base. In a recent report by New Delhi-based Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis said this port is a threat to India. Gwadar Port is very close to Hormuz strata. During any adverse situation, Pakistan might impose restriction on this route. However, Beijing will be able to conduct a complete surveillance on Indo-US naval maneuverings in the Arab Sea and Persian Gulf.
Pressure From Western Countries
Both the United States and India are worried over this strategic and military cooperation between Pakistan and China. Many people think the conflict between the CIA and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is rooted in the relations between China and Pakistan. It seems that the US has toned down to Pakistan as Islamabad successfully played the China card in face of relentless pressure from the Western countries.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a surprised visit to Pakistan along with Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint US Chief of Staff. Hillary announced that the United States will continue its cooperation and the war on terror with Pakistan. So long the United States has been alleging that Bin Laden had been hiding inside Pakistan with helps from Pakistani intelligence officials. But during her visit to Islamabad, Hillary said she did not believe top Pakistani official knew about the hiding of Bin Laden in that country.
The US security adviser has already announced that Washington's assistance to Pakistan will not be stopped. The US concern has started unfolding at a time when Pakistan is set to go under the total influence of China.
Despite conducting drone attacks inside Pakistan to eliminate the Taliban militants, the United States has been holding talks with the Taliban at the mediation of Turkey. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials have already held meeting with mid ranking Taliban leaders. Recently, former NATO official and former foreign minister of Turkey Hiqmat Setin said that Turkey was going to hold high level talks with the Taliban soon.
It is being observed that the United States contact with the Taliban still exists. However, Pakistan has been made the target of the Taliban. Questions have now been raised from inside Pakistan about the motive behind the recent attack on Pakistani naval base in Karachi and destruction of two naval surveillance aircraft. Whether any special message is being given by this type of attack. It has become clear from the nature of the attack that the target of the raid was to hit the military strength of Pakistan. A section of the mass media in Pakistan has alleged that those who have been conducting this type of attack in Pakistan in the name of the Taliban have special links with the US and Indian intelligence agency.
Pakistan's Military Cooperation with China
However, India has already expressed concern over Pakistan's military cooperation with China. Following the claim of killing Bin Laden at Abbottabad by the US force, a hint was given from New Delhi that India might conduct similar attack on Pakistan. The reaction shown by Pakistan in response to that desire of New Delhi is another cause of concern for India. Pakistan made it clear that if India dared to conduct such raids Islamabad will limited scale nuclear weapon or tactical nuclear arms. It was not so long known that Pakistan has such sophisticate nuclear arsenals.
At the same time, India plunged into another diplomatic difficulty. India handed over a list of 50 terrorists residing in Pakistan to Islamabad authorities and demanded their extradition for trials. The following day reports were published in the Indian newspapers that two of the listed terrorists detained in Indian prisons. Indian wanted to mount pressure on Pakistan in line with the United States, but they himself got entangled in trouble. And as a result, the image of India was tarnished.
After the killing of Bin Laden, the competition launch between the United States and China for expanding influence centering Pakistan gives a signal of a new strategic equation of the Asian superpowers. Iran has also joined the race. Iran has already expressed its solidarity with the integrity of Pakistan. It is being thought that Pakistani military officials have been maintaining contacts with Iran.
Importance of Islamabad
Except China, Pakistan has taken initiative of enhancing cooperation with Russia. President Asif Ali Zardari had already visited Russia. He was given a rousing reception in Moscow. The new relations of China and Russia with Iran and Pakistan could turnout to be a big concern for the United States in future. This will make the position of US-led NATO force in Afghanistan weak, and also deal a blow to the US initiatives of establishing control over the energy resources in Central Asia. In addition, Russia, China is also enhancing its influence in the Central Asia. A cooperative relation between China and Pakistan will help Beijing to make another step forward in expanding its influence in this region. Because of road communication with Central Asia and port facilities, the importance of Pakistan has increased. Despite multifaceted pressure from United States and acts of sabotage inside the country, Pakistan is playing the cards of its good relations with China and Russia because of its geostrategic position. And this is the main weapon of Pakistan. Because of this it is very easy to criticize Pakistan, but difficult to avoid.

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