A top government official of Pakistan recently emphasized Islamabad’s close links with China, telling reporters that the relationship between the two countries is “the cornerstone of our foreign policy.”
The comments from Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top foreign-policy adviser, came soon after President Donald Trump hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House Monday.
Both Pakistan and China consider India their regional rival. China, the world’s third largest arms manufacturer, is the top provider of weapons to Pakistan. Beijing is also known for lending economic support to Islamabad and investing in the Muslim-majority nation.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has reported that Beijing’s aim in backing Pakistan is to keep India’s power and influence in the region in check.
Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the United States is growing closer to India while blasting Pakistan for its support to jihadist groups combating American troops in their allies in neighboring Afghanistan.
“The security partnership between the United States and India is incredibly important,” declared President Trump and Indian PM Modi in a joint press statement issued Monday. “Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism, and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism. Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the statement, calling it “singularly unhelpful” in achieving stability and peace in the South Asian region and adding that it “aggravates an already tense situation.”
“Those who seek to appropriate a leadership role in the fight against terror are themselves responsible for much of the terror unleashed in Pakistan,” the Foreign Ministry said, referring to India.
The ministry claimed China supports its position.
In its first report to Congress about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, Trump’s Pentagon noted that jihadi “sanctuary” Pakistan is “the most influential external actor affecting” stability in Afghanistan and the “outcome” of the U.S.-NATO military mission there.
Amid its tense relationship with the United Sates, Pakistan is pivoting to its longtime ally China, reports the Washington Post (WaPo).
Pakistan has been a long recipient of U.S. aid. However, even under former President Barack Obama’s administration, the Pentagon has long criticized Pakistan for providing shelter to Islamic terrorist groups.
Last year, the Obama administration stopped more than $300 million in military reimbursements to Pakistan for refusing to take adequate action against the Haqqani Network, a jihadist group affiliated with Taliban and al-Qaeda.
However, the Post reports: “Today, Pakistan continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. annual support. But Islamabad’s political pivot from Washington to Beijing, already its dominant investor and increasingly important global interlocutor, is hardly surprising, experts said.”
According to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. “has obligated nearly $30 billion… in taxpayer money for security and economic aid to Pakistan” since the war in Afghanistan started in October 2001.
U.S., Indian, and Afghan officials have long condemned Pakistan for serving as a jihadi sanctuary. Islamabad denies the assertions.
Nevertheless, some Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation officially labeling Pakistan a state-sponsor of terrorism.
“Islamabad has been concerned about Washington’s emerging friendship with India, Pakistan’s much larger, nuclear-armed rival and neighbor,” notes WaPo. “This week’s upbeat state visit to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was received enthusiastically by President Trump, raised new alarm bells here.”
Last week, Reuters learned from U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity that the Trump administration is considering toughening its approach to combating Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
India has also increased its support for war-ravaged Afghanistan amid tensions between Kabul and Islamabad.
“I also thank the Indian people for their contributions to the effort in Afghanistan,” noted President Trump Monday.
Although mainland Pakistan does not share a border with China, Islamabad-controlled Kashmir does. China also shares a border with Afghanistan and India.