On Friday, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Pakistan on a visit that analysts suggest is aimed at reassuring Islamabad that China’s increasingly close ties with its rival, India, do not present a threat to the Sino-Pakistani alliance. Wen was received by his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, at Rawalpindi and is set to close trade deals worth between $10 and $14 billion with Islamabad. Also on the agenda will be further Chinese investment in the Gwadar deep water port on Pakistan’s coast.
The visit comes directly after Premier Wen’s India charm offensive, characterised by warm words for the future of Sino-Indian relations and undertakings to reduce the scale of the trade deficit between the two. China is India’s largest trading partner, but the exchange is one-sided, with India importing $19 billion worth of goods more from China than it exports. Days before Wen’s visit, the Chinese announced the sale of $8.3 billion dollars worth of coal-power generators to India, which is seen as a key milestone in reaching a targeted $100 billion of bilateral trade by 2015.
The openSecurity verdict: Wen Jiabao’s south Asian tour comprises a vital stage in the delicate diplomacy that China must undertake to secure the kind of international climate necessary for it to continue its breakneck economic growth. India, despite having a far smaller economy, is still going to be a potential strategic competitor in the coming decades, most notably in terms of securing energy reserves. There is a history of enmity between the two Asian giants that stretches back to a brief 1962 border conflict which is still yet to be resolved. The trade deficit and China’s support for Pakistan are further irritants in a historically fraught relationship.
But courting India is now a strategic imperative for China, as India moves increasingly into the US orbit. The year 2008 saw the ratification of the US-India nuclear agreement whereby Washington agreed to share civilian nuclear technology with New Delhi, despite its refusal to sign the US-backed nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Military and security co-operation between Israel and India has also been increasing year on year. In short there is every indication that the United States is attempting to woo India into an increasingly integrated arrangement within its own network of security alliances in an attempt to counterbalance the increasing assertiveness of Beijing.
But China cannot yet afford to abandon Pakistan. Regarded as ‘all weather’ allies, Pakistan is one of the most prominent customers of Chinese arms and is a Muslim country that can always be counted on to advocate on behalf of China’s coercive policies towards its Uighur minority in its westernmost province of Xinjiang. In return, China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan’s infrastructure; seven times more than it invests in India.
In addition, as last week’s deal over the trans-Afghan pipeline illustrates, energy supplies from the fossil-fuel rich Inner Caspian region can only reach India via Pakistan. By making efforts to cultivate the two south Asian competitors, China may be in a position to broker future agreements between the two that will ensure regional stability and thus energy security for Beijing. But such a utopian goal will require considerably more ground work on the part of China; the enormous trade deficit, the unresolved border of Arunachal Pradesh and China’s apparent support for Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir will all have to be dealt with adroitly in the coming years before such a regional condominium is possible.
India implicated in mass torture in Jammu-Kashmir
Diplomatic cables disclosed by the website Wikileaks have revealed that US diplomats have been aware for years that mass human rights abuses routinely take place in Indian jails in Kashmir. The cables reveal that as early as 2005 US State Department personnel had been briefed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that hundreds of detainees in Kashmir have been exposed to beatings, electrocution and sexual humiliation. One cable from 2007 details the concerns of US diplomats about such abuses, stating that the Indian government rely upon such methods in order to extract confessions.
EU continues to pressure Israel over settlements and Gaza strip
In contrast to the United States’ decision to abandon attempts to persuade Israel to freeze settlement construction within the occupied West Bank, on Monday EU foreign ministers stringently criticised settlement construction as ‘illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace’. The EU also urged the Israeli government to ease their stranglehold on the Gaza Strip and to permit more aid to reach the Hamas government.
The Israeli government has eased some restrictions over the past few months, saying this month that they will permit the export of manufactured goods. The EU foreign ministers note in their joint communiqué, however, that ‘changes on the ground have been limited and insufficient so far.’ The EU’s consistently critical line towards Israeli occupation policy has been avoided by the Obama administration during recent months. After successive diplomatic humiliations, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton appeared to concede failure by stating that the US now favours a return to indirect talks now that ‘direct contacts had failed to produce results.’