Pakistan Can Bring The US And China Together Again If Washington Has The Will
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gave an exclusive interview to CGTN earlier this week where he announced that he hopes for his country to bring the US and China together again just like it did back in 1970. This is an ambitious proposal but it might not bear fruit due to Washington lacking the will to have it happen, though it should still be analysed a bit since it’s not as far-fetched as some observers might think. In fact, there’s no better time than now for Pakistan to make its best efforts to do so.
The New Cold War between the American and Chinese superpowers is essentially over shaping the direction of International Relations during the onset of the emerging Multipolar World Order that’s presently in the midst of bi-multipolarity. The US wants to preserve its fading hegemony through continued control over international institutions, standards, tech, and trade while China wants to return to the original international order enshrined in the UN Charter to make the world more equitable and just.
Their competition is putting pressure on countries to “choose” between the two as part of the US’ zero-sum divide-and-rule strategy that China hopes to counteract through its inclusive and mutually beneficial Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) that aims at creating a community of common destiny for humankind. China doesn’t want anyone to “choose” between these two but maintains that every country’s sovereign choice to cooperate with whoever they want mustn’t be at anyone else’s expense.
Therein lies the conundrum since the US regularly instrumentalises its cooperation with other countries in ways that go against the interests of third parties like China. This is evidenced through its military-technical ties with certain regional states who are accused of assembling into unofficial American-led anti-Chinese “containment” coalitions. Its exclusive trade policies and explicit attempts to undermine Chinese companies across the world also expose its hostile intentions.
Pakistan feels increasingly caught in the middle since it’s historically enjoyed excellent relations with both current superpowers, having initially played the historical role of bringing them together in the first place in 1970 exactly as Prime Minister Khan noted during his interview. That said, its ties with the US have become very complicated after US President Joe Biden has yet to speak to Prime Minister Khan despite Pakistan playing a pivotal role in the evacuation of allied forces from Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s decision last December to politely decline attending the US’ “Summit for Democracy” due to that provocative event’s openly anti-Chinese motivations is also considered to have further complicated their ties, though the truth is that it’s America’s fault for politicizing that event in the first place. Nevertheless, observers are very concerned about the future of their relations, but Prime Minister Khan still hopes that they can be improved to the point of Pakistan bringing the US and China together again.
This is much easier said than done, but if it ever happens, then it’ll be because of his country’s new geo-economic grand strategy that was recently made official through its first-ever National Security Policy. February 2021’s agreement to build a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway will create a new connectivity corridor linking together South Asia and Central Asia. This could easily be used by American companies to help rebuild Afghanistan and economically engage with Central Asia.
In fact, Pakistan could become the launchpad, or “economic base” as Prime Minister Khan previously put it, for American companies in the region. They might be attracted not only to Pakistan’s forthcoming access to Central Asia, but also to the infrastructure that was recently created there as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), not to mention its amazing emerging market potential.
American companies investing more in China’s top BRI partner might seem counterintuitive at first glance but it would actually be mutually beneficial for everyone. The US could see first-hand through its “economic ambassadors” in Pakistan that neither BRI nor its CPEC flagship are so-called “debt traps” but actually provide unprecedented developmental assistance to developing countries. They’re works in progress that aim to attract multiple stakeholders in their success, not “Chinese monopolies”.
America and China could even engage in a friendly economic and investment competition in Pakistan where no one loses but everyone wins, especially the locals who’d benefit by getting the best deals possible from these economic superpowers. It’s in both of their interests for Pakistan to successfully develop as soon as possible since tangibly improved living conditions could make hitherto economically desperate people less susceptible to radical outreaches too, which will in turn stabilize South Asia.
Independent and uncoordinated American and Chinese investment in Pakistan might not lessen the intensity of those two’s heated strategic competition over the course of the ongoing global systemic transition towards multipolarity but it would still be a positive development. After all, every potential détente has to start someplace and Pakistan has already brought those two together once before, albeit under completely different geopolitical circumstances.
No matter how difficult it might be to do so again, Pakistan won’t ever give up on trying as proven by Prime Minister Khan’s latest policy reaffirmation to Chinese media. Its new geo-economic grand strategy increases the chances of this happening even if they still remain limited due to Washington’s lack of political will. Nevertheless, if American businesses lead the way by investing more in Pakistan, American politicians might soon follow and the seemingly impossible might once again become possible with time.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.