Prima facie, by the yardstick of China’s “all-weather friendship” for Pakistan, the editorial in the Global Times (sister publication of People’s Daily) on the US-Pak tensions may not stand out as special. After all, Beijing remains supportive of Pakistan in the present crisis situation. The timing of the GT editorial is also self-evident: on the heels of the Abbottabad episode. Interestingly, however, GT has stepped out to defend Pakistan’s “intelligence sector”, which wasn’t quite warranted even by the norms of friendship. Unsurprisingly, GT takes exception to the criticism of Pakistan at this juncture as “not only unfair, but dangerous”. Because it doesn’t do justice to the undeniable fact that Pakistan has been the “beachhead of the war on terror” and did take “huge losses” in this war.
GT criticises the US and Indian media for being self-serving in their criticism of Pakistan. GT singles out Indian media for its singular lack of restraint and for aping the Western media. It observes that the trend of Indian public opinion regarding South Asian region is on the whole “worrisome” and this is something that is going to hurt India’s own potential to become a “responsible power” in the region. Interestingly, GT keeps out the Indian government and policymakers and seems to take a swipe at the Indian “hawks” in the media and among the hardline opinion makers in Delhi for doing the country a singular disservice at this juncture by disregarding that Delhi has indeed made gains in its diplomacy and foreign policies (presumably, with China, Pakistan, etc.)
The salience of the editorial lies in its exhortation to the US to learn from China the ABC of handling Pakistan. After all, China, too, is a victim of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. But that hasn’t caused any “deterioration” in China’s ties with Pakistan, which remain based on mutual respect. “In this way, China has set an example for the West on how to treat Pakistan as a sincere and cooperative friend.”
The editorial doesn’t venture into any defence of Pakistani policies as such. It neatly sidesteps making value judgments about Abbottabad, etc., either, and instead it focuses on Pakistan’s importance, being “one of the most complex countries of the Muslim world, with a mix of democracy and tribe-based autonomy”, which makes it injudicious to “force Pakistan to bend before external pressure.” In short, it is a complex country that needs careful handling if it is to be guided toward “modernization”. Crude pressure tactic won’t work.
Second, GT’s candid estimation that Beijing has opted to work with Islamabad despite the terrorist threat from Pakistani soil falls short of explicitly saying how far such a course has been productive, but the implication is that China feels comfortable with the approach it has adopted and it intends to persist.Third, GT editorial implies China being a “stakeholder” rather than an adversary for the US, who is willing to work with the US rather than dissipate its energies in oneupmanship or taking advantage of the current complicated phase of US-Pakistan relationship.
In sum, it doesn’t question the US objectives as such but disagrees with the methods that US is adopting. Finally, there is no inclination here to gloat over the US-Pakistan tensions or to encourage Islamabad to strategically defy Washington. Clearly, that is not the Chinese intention. The priority, rather, lies in achieving Pakistan’s stability “which is vital for the whole region” — implying that China and US would have, essentially speaking, shared interests and concerns.