Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani took a four-day trip to China from May 17-20, 2011. Although the visit was planned much earlier to mark the 60 years of Pakistan-China friendship, it acquired unprecedented importance in international relations following the May 1 killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a unilateral U.S. operation in Pakistan's Abbottabad city.
The Abbottabad operation was seen in Pakistan and internationally as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, as the U.S. carried out the operation without informing the Pakistani leaders. Soon after the operation, China issued statements of support for Pakistan and praised its role in the war against terror.
During Gilani's May 17-20 visit to Beijing, Chinese leaders also asked the U.S. to respect Pakistan's sovereignty and appreciate its role in the war on terror. Pakistan has been a longstanding ally of China, but has in recent years been deepening the relationship. This strengthening of Chinese-Pakistani ties is being seen as an attempt to undercut the influence of the U.S. and India in Afghanistan and wider South Asia.
In a series of editorials excerpts below, various Pakistani newspapers wrote about Prime Minister Gilani's visit to China and its implications for Pakistan, the U.S. and India.
"[Pakistani] People Warmly Hold China in the Highest Esteem for Its Steadfastness to Stand by Them…; They Hold Such a Poor View of America for Its Habitual Exploitation of This Nation"
Following are some excerpts from The Frontier Post editorial, titled "Grand Chinese Gesture":
"As the Americans are largely boxing Pakistan into a corner haughtily and their Western allies are working to the same end subtly, [there] has come a heartening voice from China in its true pattern to rescue this country from a distressful predicament whenever it is in. In a straightforward talk, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has lauded Pakistan's contributions to anti-terrorism war, and urged America to acknowledge this and also to respect this country's sovereignty.
"Of course, this has not gone down well with the movers and shakers in Washington, drawing sniggers from their mouthpieces in media, commentariat and think tanks. But, then, these drummers want, as do their bandmasters, everyone else in the world to love whom they love, hate whom they hate, condemn whom they condemn and eulogize whom they eulogize. And since they have castigated Pakistan as an untrustworthy and no real partner in anti-terrorism war, they expect all others to revile and abuse Pakistan. The Chinese have made it clear they would have none of it and would speak their mind honestly and loudly, which their premier has thankfully done.
"Little wonder, this country's people hold China warmly in the highest esteem for its steadfastness to stand by them through thick and thin. And no wonder, they hold such a poor view of America for its habitual exploitation of this nation for furtherance of its geopolitical objectives and then throwing it away like disposal garbage when its ends are achieved and it finds no use for Pakistan. History is a witness, and its testimony is damning. No wonder, then, that this country's people are so livid with their leaders across the spectrum for putting all their eggs in the unreliable and untrustworthy U.S. basket, neglecting a time-tested and all-weather friend [China]. They indeed are acidly incensed at this leadership's serf-like slavishness to the American masters.
"If the Americans have questions for Pakistan to answer, this country also has questions for them to answer. And the people are deeply worked up as to why this weakling leadership has not ventured to ask. The Americans are making much of how Osama stayed ensconced in his Abbottabad hideout uncaught for so long. This certainly is quite intriguing, indeed as intriguing as the 9/11 terrorist strike plane-hijackers getting training in the American aviation academies without being caught by any of about two dozens American intelligence agencies, and their coconspirators plotting the strike in Europe undetected despite close rapport of the Western spy services with America's CIA."
"If Despite Spending … $120 Billion a Year… Americans have Failed Spectacularly in Pacifying Afghanistan… What Feats could They Expect from Pakistan Even If They had Given It $20 Billion in Aid…?"
"More crucially, how come Osama made good his escape when the U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan primarily to dismantle his murderous Al-Qaeda network and nab him dead or alive? If their troop surge is working wonders now as they claim so triumphantly, why didn't they make this surge right at the outset; and why did they let their puny force stay immobile and barracked in their Kabul and Bagram garrisons, instead of going after the fleeing rumps of Al-Qaeda and Taliban to mop them up?
"Our people are flummoxed that as the Americans and their Western allies are painting us a sinner foxily, why are our leaders not holding up the original sinner for pillory and punishment? And they are miffed that while a lot of vituperative tirade is flowing out from the U.S. chambers [i.e. Congress] against us over some mythical aid having flowed to us in torrents, why is nobody in Islamabad clarifying the actual reality about it. Yes, Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh did venture. He said this talk of billions of dollars of aid was all a myth. Then, after realizing he might have treaded on some powerful toes, he pissed and bleated he had not said [anything].
"In any case, if despite spending roughly $12 billion a month, $120 billion a year, and some $1 trillion over the past ten years, Americans have failed spectacularly in pacifying Afghanistan, 70 percent of which is still under the sway of Taliban and other insurgent groups, what feats could they expect from Pakistan even if they had given it $20 billion in aid over the past decade or so?
"And why have they failed to nab or kill any of the 100 or so Al-Qaeda fighters they themselves say are still in Afghanistan? Or do they think those only say prayers while those they had let for their own cowardice to sneak into Pakistan are evil-doers? There is too much skullduggery to their pronouncements, stances and pretences, which should at least impel this leadership of ours to rethink its America policy and understand who are this country's real friends and who are just wolves in sheep's clothing."
"Pakistan and China have a Longstanding Relationship, Especially Since 1962, When China and India Went to War over a Disputed Border"
Following are excerpts from the Lahore-based Daily Times editorial, titled "Enduring Pak-China Relations":
"During Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's visit to China, there has been speculation that he undertook this 'emergency' trip in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad by U.S. forces. Nothing could be further from the truth. During the visit, the Chinese leadership assured Pakistan of their full support in its hour of need. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao informed Pakistan that China had urged the U.S. to respect Pakistan's sovereignty.
"In addition to agreements on banking, technical, and economic cooperation, China agreed to expedite the delivery of 50 J-17F Thunder fighter jets to Pakistan. This has provoked some American congressmen to interpret it as Pakistan's leaning on China to countervail pressure from Washington. Contrary to speculation, this visit was not prompted by the Abbottabad incident. It was planned much before and was part of the ongoing Pak-China strategic relations.
"Also, 2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the Pak-China relationship and has been designated as the year of friendship between the two countries, which was reflected in the celebrations and extraordinarily warm welcome extended to Pakistan's prime minister in China. Therefore, to suggest that the visit was organized on the spur of the moment is misleading.
"Pakistan and China have a longstanding relationship, especially since 1962, when China and India went to war over a disputed border. The Chinese have been steadfast friends and have supported Pakistan through thick and thin. China's interest lies in a stable and prosperous Pakistan. They have been very generous in sharing their development and progress in the economic and technical fields and have aided Pakistan in every possible manner. Therefore, the visit of Prime Minister Gilani should not be considered as reactive."
"The Chinese have Agreed to Speed Up the Production and Delivery of 50 JF-17 Thunder Aircraft for Pakistan; This has... Sent a Clear Signal to the World that China Stands by Pakistan"
"Pakistan is a sovereign country (despite challenges) and has the right to choose its friends and explore options for positive relationships other than the U.S. Pakistan is not bound to have a one-track relationship with the world through the U.S. The U.S. raid in Abbottabad created a perception that Pakistan's air force is weak and compromised, prompting India to remark that it could carry out similar attacks on jihadi outfits in Pakistan. Like a true friend, the Chinese have agreed to speed up the production and delivery of 50 JF-17 Thunder aircraft for Pakistan. This has not only sent a clear signal to the world that China stands by Pakistan but will actually strengthen our air defense against any such misadventure.
"China has a keen interest that Pakistan's vision to become a trade and energy corridor, which links Central Asia, Russia and China with the warm waters of the Arabian Sea should become a reality. If the Gwadar Port [on the coast of Pakistan's Baluchistan province] develops and is linked with rail and road infrastructure, China's interests will also be served. Compared to shipping from the eastern seaports, trade through Pakistan will tremendously ease trade for China. China wants to develop its relatively undeveloped interior western regions. The best way to achieve this is to provide an outlet for the region through Gwadar.
"The Chinese have agreed to take over the operation of Gwadar Port after the contract with the Singapore Port Authority expires in anticipation of this dream becoming a reality. China has stakes in a developed and prosperous Pakistan and is ready to help it grow. Is Pakistan ready to avail this opportunity and develop the capacity to take advantage of Chinese generosity?"
"Beijing Expects Washington to Recognize Pakistan's Own Sacrifices During the War [against Terrorism]"
Following are excerpts from the Dawn editorial, titled "Chinese Support":
"While one should not read too much into China's support for Pakistan on the Abbottabad raid, it would not do to dismiss it as a routine exercise in diplomacy either. By asking America to respect Pakistan's sovereignty – the raid to take out Osama bin Laden was, after all, conducted on Pakistani soil, without the government's knowledge – China has reiterated a principle cardinal to relations among nations.
"Considering that no other country has come out so categorically in support of Islamabad on what has turned out to be a demeaning episode for Pakistan, the Chinese Prime Minister's remarks, during the course of his Pakistani counterpart's visit, must be a source of satisfaction for the government. They uphold Pakistan's stance that the raid should have been jointly conducted and that the [U.S. Navy] SEALs' foray and the intermittent drone attacks demonstrate an unwarranted unilateralism that undermines rather than strengthens the war on terror.
"Two other points emphasized by Wen Jiabao deserve attention. First, he [Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao] said he had raised the May 2 raid with American officials during their strategic dialogue and emphasized the need for Washington to understand Islamabad's problems; second, Beijing expects Washington to recognize Pakistan's own sacrifices during the war. In fact, what Mr. Wen said has often been acknowledged by American officials themselves.
"Ever since 9/11, no country has suffered the way Pakistan has at the hands of terrorists of all hues. A minimum of 30,000 Pakistani soldiers and civilians have been killed, evoking condemnation from most Pakistanis few of whom have supported Osama bin Laden. On the whole, Mr. Wen's statement after talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is expressive of the restraint that characterizes China's foreign policy, especially towards its neighbors, because he lauded the Pakistani leader's acceptance of the Indian premier's invitation to Mohali [town in India to watch a cricket match].
"Given the doubts being cast by the international community on Pakistan's commitment to the war on terror, the Chinese prime minister's assurances that changes in international politics will not affect Beijing's relations with Islamabad, the commitment to help strengthen this country's defence capability and the decision to supply 50 Thunder jets are a matter of satisfaction for the government."
"Pakistan Inducted… High-Tech Chinese Warplanes into Its Air Force at a Time when the U.S. Congress Seems to Be of Two Minds About Providing Financial Assistance to Pakistan"
Following are excerpts from The Express Tribune editorial, titled "Friendship with China":
"During his meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on May 18, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reaffirmed Pakistan's 'all-weather' friendship with the country. The warmth was the same as that always observed in the past, with the Chinese prime minister weighing in on the Pakistani side while asking the U.S. to respect Pakistan's sovereignty. He added that the 'the Americans had acknowledged Pakistan's contributions to the war on terror' and had assured him that the U.S. would take steps to improve relations with Pakistan.
"New agreements in the economic field were signed and the defense sector was not ignored either. Pakistan inducted a new bunch of high-tech Chinese warplanes into its air force at a time when the U.S. Congress seems to be of two minds about providing financial assistance to Pakistan at current levels. In Pakistan, too, lower-echelon politicians have been calling for breaking off relations with the U.S. and relying more completely on China, guided in large part by their anti-U.S. and anti-India outlook.
"While China's support for Pakistan at this time is welcome, it should be seen through the prism of realism. This would suggest that the Chinese would not, in the least, be inclined to enter Pakistan's isolationist habit of saber-rattling against, what large sections of the Pakistani media calls, a 'U.S.-India-Israel axis.' Mr. Wen praised Mr. Gilani's decision to accept India's invitation to watch the cricket world cup semi-final in Mohali and said this would help improve relations between the two neighbors.
"The truth is that Mr Gilani's visit may well have little to do with the current wrinkle in Pakistan-U.S. relations, after the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad (for starters, such visits are usually planned well in advance). Pakistan-China relations need to develop further from their current level simply because their territorial contiguity adds new logistic dimension.
"If the economic dimension is emphasized, no one need object. Because of Pakistan's confrontationist policy with India, New Delhi frequently equates Chinese cooperation with Pakistan as being hostile to India. However, what if China uses a South Asian route for its goods to be shipped to the rest of the world, or what of the possibility that it could use Pakistani territory to trade with India?"
"If We Want to Move Even Closer to the Future Superpower [China], We Need to Understand the Chinese Mind More Effectively, not Only As a Blindfolded Ally against India and the U.S."
"China has helped Pakistan in key areas, and some of this, like with Chashma [nuclear plant], has not been to the liking of the U.S. and its Western allies; but 'protestations' in this regard have been muted because rules have been violated (by the U.S. itself) with regard to India too. China has built the Karakoram Highway and Gwadar [port] is ready but the further development of roads linking it with other regions has been stymied by terrorism – Chinese engineers have been killed both in the tribal areas and Baluchistan by local terrorists.
"Instability and fluctuations of regional relationships have delayed the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which was to be linked to the two high-growth, energy-starved states in the region: India and China. Baluchi insurgents have shown such a level of professional efficiency in blowing up gas pipelines in Pakistan that it is difficult to imagine any project coming to fruition. As a result, a completed Gwadar port waits for Pakistan to regain internal normalcy.
"Pakistan has to think 'trade-first' like China, to get out of its bind with terrorism. There is a great gap of learning from good neighbor China, while the army and, equally warmongering, civilian leaders think of extracting military advantage from China to complete Pakistan's unfinished wars. Instead of fighting the next war with India over water, Pakistan needs internal consensus on building more and bigger water reservoirs with Chinese help. That such plans are afoot is a good augury.
"The Chinese might also reset our direction by helping us concentrate more on our agriculture and increase our capacity to export food to China's high-growth economy in the coming days. If we want to move even closer to the future superpower [China], we need to understand the Chinese mind more effectively, not only as a blindfolded ally against India and the U.S. willing to back our madcap ambition of fighting interstate wars while intra-state conflict threatens to undo Pakistan."