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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 19 New Delhi May 2, 2015

Chinese Bonanza for Pakistan: In the Wider Interest?

Saturday 2 May 2015, by Uttam Sen

China’s multifaceted initiative on Pakistan has been received pragmatically by public opinion in India on the watch for what works best. Even the windfall of submarines, as long as it is not technically converted into a platform for directing a nuclear-tipped second strike at India, has not produced knee-jerk alarm, the Defence Minister briefly spelling out a more ambitious schedule. It is now tacitly taken for granted that the various aspects of China’s policies include the Pakistani proxy for India’s containment. To what extent they are sops to conciliate a persecuted political and military leadership is less clear. But they are not the gist.

The wider framework can one day reduce sheer tactical gamesmanship to a secondary consideration as China globally invests in banking and development in a very tangible endeavour to update the 1943-vintage Bretton Woods institutions. Their resonance in the Western world holds out the hope that diehards notwithstanding, international resilience will help design a structure that is responsive to newly-emerging requirements without getting ensnared by another lopsided system. The strategic effect is also being produced.

India is being presented with, and/or is cultivating, the counterpoise of proximity with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, Japan and the USA, which is partially economic and partially strategic. India overlaps with China in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Yet India also stands to gain from the $ 45 billion infrastructural extravaganza linking Xingjian to Gwadar. Livelihood prospects will undoubtedly temper the outlook of people in the region, and perhaps demotivate sustenance to China’s separatist Uighurs. In the bargain, the country as a whole could regain economic momentum and coherence to diminish the frenzy of the non-state actors’ subversion against India. But again, China’s access to a warm water port close to the Persian Gulf and “choking point” in the Gulf of Hormuz can be of strategic concern to India when it goes beyond the agency of acquiring the country’s energy requirements from West Asia and Africa.

Taken with the possibility of a legally rehabilitated Iran playing its role, there can be more in the works with a gas pipeline transporting very essential energy to Pakistan. Russia, China and India could be stakeholders in the completed undertaking. The idea would be to translate an unfavourable set of circumstances into a prod-uctive and cooperative regional design. On the other hand, India’s long-term strategic targeting by China and Pakistan appears implausible because it would logically disturb the regional integrity required to make a success of a promising scheme and potentially disturb the wider conception.

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist.