During Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Beijing — his first since taking office earlier this year — the two sides sought to re-emphasise their “all-weather friendship”, and rode roughshod on crucial Indian concerns on Kashmir and the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through Occupied Kashmir, which is Indian territory.
In direct and indirect ways, India figured prominently in the joint statement issued on Sunday in ways that continue to underline China’s and Pakistan’s blanket disregard of Indian sensitivities. It is interesting that while being provocatively unmindful of Indian concerns, Beijing and Islamabad tried to reinforce through repetition their bizarre narrative about Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism and its contribution to the international non-proliferation regime.
This is a storyline that has few takers internationally, and so it is essentially conceived as a plank for mutual reassurance that the foundation of the basis of the China-Pakistan friendship — which at its core is inimical to India’s interests — is indeed rooted in ideas that are in accord with UN goals and international aspirations, and are in that sense ethical, no matter how topsy-turvy such a dressing-up of reality may appear to be.
In the document issued at the end of Mr Khan’s visit “China appreciates Pakistan’s quest for peace” and “supports Pakistan’s efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries”.
This is Goebbelsian doublespeak. For New Delhi certainly, and for significant world capitals, Pakistan’s “quest for peace” is a myth. The latter’s efforts to improve ties with India are plainly non-existent, and therefore no one knows what they are.
Why should India figure in a China-Pakistan joint statement in the context of Kashmir? Can this be deemed to be Beijing’s way to insinuate itself in the bilateral India-Pakistan paradigm? This is a subject to which New Delhi needs to be alive.
If this is the current edition of the joint China-Pakistan game, it would seem that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “informal” summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in the early part of this year has been irrelevant to the anti-India China-Pakistan lineup.
Evidently the Pakistan Army, which calls the shots in Islamabad, continues to be Beijing’s most valued international client due to its anti-India orientation, even as elected civilian regimes in the country come and go. As such, New Delhi needs to continually upgrade its capabilities to manage this axis.