On his current tour of East Asia and the Indo-Pacific nations, US President Donald Trump was rounding off its China leg on Thursday, heaping praise on President Xi Jinping in the expectation that the Chinese leader can help the US with two crucial matters: Getting North Korea to back off on carrying out its threat to use nukes against the US, and using China’s influence with Islamabad to curb international terrorism, of which Pakistan remains the nerve centre.
It is true China has significant influence with both North Korea and Pakistan, but it is unlikely Beijing will move one inch to use its leverage for any country or in world interest unless it is benefited by these actions.
As for Pakistan, we can only be amused. The US approach simply cannot be taken seriously. America had compelling leverage over Pakistan for six decades, and Islamabad was still sheltering Osama bin Laden. Promoting Islamist terror outfits is in Pakistan’s inner memory as it was founded on the basis of its religious identity alone.
Pakistan deploys its terrorist assets against India, and this comforts China. Among the most lethal terrorist groups nurtured by Pakistan’s ISI is the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose leader Masood Azhar is on the UN list of dangerous terrorists. More than once in the recent past, Beijing has scuttled moves by India, as well as joint efforts of leading European powers, India and the US, for international action against the J-e-M founder.
So long as Chinese interests are inextricably bound with Pakistan’s, Beijing cannot be a part of the solution on important matters like terrorism and peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.