China Pressures Pakistan over Mumbai Attacks

The Times of India is reporting that China has begun to put pressure on Pakistan to come clean on whatever they know and whoever they might have tabs on in connection with the militant groups potentially behind the Mumbai attacks. What remains uncertain is whether Beijing’s efforts will be directed towards addressing the problem of these groups infiltrating into India, or into China’s own Xinjiang province, where there is also an Islamic insurgency under way.

The guiding logic behind the Asia Triangle feature that WPR is running this week (which was obviously planned months ago) is that America has gradually widened the lens of how it perceives the Afghanistan problem over the past seven years. Beginning with the hunt for al-Qaida in Kandahar, we initially pulled back to include the FATA across the Pakistani border and, subsequently, the impact of the war against the Taliban on Pakistan’s stability. More recently we’ve pulled back even further to include the broader India-Pakistan rivalry which the Mumbai attacks have brought to the fore.

But we’ve yet to widen it to include the role that China plays in that rivalry. Here’s a passage from Arif Rafiq’s feature article on Pakistan that bears closer attention:

Despite the cultural and ideological incongruities,Sino-Pakistani relations are built upon very solid foundations ofshared threats and interests, focusing around India. Additionally,geography — namely, China’s long border with India and competitionover sea lanes — give Sino-Pak relations an enduring value. . .

While Beijing’s engagement with Islamabad has been steady andlong-term, Washington’s approach has been marked by peaks and valleys.Last year, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte noted thatU.S.-Pakistan relations have historically been “on-again, off-again” –to the detriment of both states. . .

While few Pakistanis recall the U.S. contribution toinfrastructure development in Pakistan, they revere the Chinese role inthe development of Gwadar, a deep sea port in Balochistan that isexpected to serve as a regional energy and trade hub. . .

For all the pressure we’ve put on Pakistan since Sept. 12, 2001, we’ve accomplished very little in terms of changing their national security calculus. Now there’s no guarantee that China could get real concessions out of Islamabad any more than us. And even if they could, their complex relations with India might make them reluctant to go all the way.

But the ToI story could be a guage of whether Beijing can and will play a more constructive role in the “regional approach” being proposed for South Asia. President-elect Obama ought to be considering how to get New Delhi on board with that, rather than just who his special arm-twisting envoy to the region will be.

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