While the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. seems to be worsening daily, the Islamabad government is welcoming the arrival of a high-ranking Chinese minister as a show of friendship between the two Asian giants.
China’s Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu arrived in the Pakistani capital on Monday for high-level talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
“[Pakistan and China] are true friends and we count on each other,” Gilani said in a television broadcast after speaking with Meng on Tuesday.
“Thank you once again…for [China’s] supportive statement in favor of Pakistan’s sovereignty and integrity.”
In contrast, a poisonous atmosphere has seeped into the rhetoric between Islamabad and Washington. Last week, the highest ranking military official in the U.S., Admiral Mike Mullen, openly accused Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, ISI, of having direct links with the Haqqani terror network, a militant group that has targeted Western and Indian targets, including the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The charge elicited fury among senior Pakistani officials, but was only the latest salvo from Washington since the monumental discovery of Al-Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani compound last May.
Indeed, after the killing of Osama, Beijing defended Pakistan from accusations it had long harbored the terrorist.
Referring to China’s continued support of Pakistan amidst the onslaught of criticism from the U.S., Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said in a statement: “In these peculiar circumstances when the country was grappling with many challenges simultaneously, Chinese assistance has been most welcome in stabilizing the situation.”
Pakistan’s army chief (arguably the most powerful man in the country) General Ashfaq Kayani also thanked China for her “unwavering support”.
Zardari noted that China and Pakistan has signed $250-million trade and technical agreements. Beijing not only supplies Pakistan with weapons, but has also heavily invested in telecommunications, ports and infrastructure.
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Hong Lei, has praised Pakistan for its “important contributions in the international fight against terrorism. China understands and supports Pakistan’s formulating and implementing its counter terrorism strategy based on its national conditions.”
Lei added: “China attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with Pakistan. At present China and Pakistan strategic and cooperative partnership is gaining good moment of development”, and added that “frequent exchanges of high level visits and steady progress and cooperation in economic and trade will further enforce bilateral ties”.
Security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Reuters: “[The Pakistanis] are trying to use their diplomatic options as much as possible to defuse pressure on them. They hope China will help them in this crisis.”
Despite their many differences, China and Pakistan have two very important similarities: a common enemy in India and fears over growing U.S. influence in South Asia.
Meanwhile, the U.S. remains frustrated by Pakistan’s apparent reluctance to go after militants in the country.
“We have stated this before, but there’s clearly an urgency given recent developments and also given the close relationship that exists between Pakistan and China,” a U.S. State Department official told reporters.
However, China also wants to see Pakistan and the U.S. normalize their tattered relations.
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, Hong Lei said: “We hope Pakistan and U.S. relations will improve and develop which is conducive to regional peace, development and stability. Pakistan is an important country in South Asia, and also at the forefront in the international counter terrorism campaign”