Why China supports Pakistan despite ISIS killing two of its nationals in Balochistan

Pursuing an ostrich-like attitude will not help as it never has.

 |  5-minute read |   11-06-2017
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Speculation is rife that in an apparent bid to display anger over the killing of two Chinese nationals in Pakistan, president Xi Jinping avoided a customary meeting with Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the recently-held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is also being interpreted as a clear snub to Pakistan.

Such an interpretation or observation by Pakistan and China watchers could possibly be an exaggeration but one thing is clear: China is not at all happy with the abduction of two of its nationals who were subsequently murdered in Balochistan. Chinese anger is compounded by another incident in which two of its nationals, both engineers, died in a claymore blast on June 6 in the Windar Kinang area of Hub district in Balochistan.

It has complicated matters, raising questions about the level and quality of security accorded to the Chinese nationals by the Pakistani establishment. Meanwhile, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack on the engineers, who were working on the Dudher Zinc project.

BLA's Jeehand Baloch, in the meantime, averred that BLA had earlier warned China to refrain from working in the region as Balochis suspect that China is upto malicious expansionist designs to colonise Pakistan. It's further wary that China will exploit Balochistan by looting Baloch resources. In the same vein, the mining project in Dudher was described as a farce.

isis_6_061117091825.jpgRecent events raise suspicion about a possible nexus between ISIS and the Balochis opposed to the CPEC. Photo: PTI

It also reiterated its stand of calling upon China to relinquish its partnership with Pakistan at the earliest, alleging it was gradually becoming an accomplice of Pakistan in its barbaric excesses against the Balochis by abusing Balochistan soil as a "bunker post" for its nefarious designs, dubbing it a trench warfare to destabilise South and Central Asia, with Afghanistan as the worst victim. Such powerful rhetoric demonstrates the extent of hate the Baluchis nurture against China.

It's pertinent to point out that China is pursuing its highly ambitious and exploitative project of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth $50 billion which is causing immense problems to the inhabitants in the corridor.

However, the problems are deliberately ignored, principally due to massive monetary investments made by Beijing and also due to geo political reasons aimed at bringing Pakistan and China closer. China has put several hundred workers to work with the CPEC project connecting Gwadar port in Balochistan to Xinjiang in China. The project is causing great resentment among the Kashmiris under Pakistani repression in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

It's evident that Balochis are resentful about the project and they have been articulating their ire by being very vocal. The recent murders of the two Chinese, claimed to have been carried out by the ISIS, raises suspicion about a possible nexus between ISIS and the Balochis opposed to the CPEC.

Hence the corridor remains volatile. In this context, Xi Jinping ignoring Nawaz Sharif by not meeting him at Astana ahead of the SCO summit remains highly suspicious. It's also intriguing that the news of the murder of the Chinese was disclosed in public just before the summit ( June 8-9). Was it a move to derail the Chinese plans?

A section of the diplomatic community in Islamabad holds the opinion that the disclosure and timing were deliberate by design, and on purpose. Yet, there are attempts by Pakistan and China to play the incident down lest the international community thinks there is a chill in Pakistan-China ties.

This was evident from Chinese spokesperson Hua Chunying's words when she asserted that ties between the two countries continue to be normal and Pakistan is likely to step up security and safety of the Chinese living or working in the turbulent region.

Diplomatic parlance can not cover up ground realities. And such realities can not be swept under the carpet.

It would augur well if China learns a lesson or two from the killing of its nationals seemingly perpetrated by the ISIS. It's a clear case of an act of terror. Pursuing an ostrich-like attitude will not help as it never has.

It's now common knowledge that ISIS is collaborating with dreaded terror outfits in Pakistan including Lashkar e Jhangvi and Jamaat ul Ahrar who are also facilitating ISIS making forays into Pakistan, especially in trouble-torn Balochistan. 

This development looks perilous, and should ISIS returnees find this a fertile ground to practise terror misadventures, the corridor and the adjacent areas are likely to see a more combustible future.

China, therefore, should not support Pakistani terrorists at the UN. Any reluctance might prove costly.

It's worth reminding both China and Pakistan that in the Lal Masjid siege of 2007 in Lahore, Chinese Uighurs were directly involved and upon express intervention and demand by the Chinese, Pervez Musharraf had promptly handed over those Uighurs to China.

Now that CPEC is getting hotter with terror, it seems incumbent upon China to not merely ignore the Pakistani PM, but also firmly prevail upon Pakistan to be seen as containing terror not only in the CPEC but also beyond it as it's a global fight not confined to two countries Ad interim, it's indeed worthwhile to closely watch if Pakistan continues to be snubbed by China as the latter sees the former as a crawling state which can bend backwards to please its "ally" to any extent, even compromising its national sovereignty.

Also read: China-Pakistan's dam projects in Gilgit-Baltistan should worry India


Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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