China, Pakistan and India

December 13, 2008


According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan’s decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. “It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came,” the newspaper said. “One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken…”

This is intriguing, all the more so given how much attention has has been focused on what the United States has been doing to lean on Pakistan to curb militant groups blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai.  So what has been going on? Has China, with its growing economic power, become a pivotal player in global diplomacy even as the United States continues to hog the limelight?

We’ve always known that China has had a major role in South Asia. But in the past it was a seen as the ultimate all-weather ally of Pakistan, to be used if necessary against India, with which it has vied for influence in Asia and against which it fought a border war in 1962.  Is this call for peace an example of it taking on a U.S.-style role of regional policeman, as I discussed in a post back in June about India, Pakistan and China?

The Times of India quotes Shashi Tharoor as saying that there was a feeling in China that its opposition to India on the issue of terrorism would “no longer be compatible with its being seen as a responsible player in the system”.

The Asia Times Online, in a report datelined Bangalore, put China’s decision to support the crackdown on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in a more pragmatic context. “An official in India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, said that in the wake of the international outrage triggered by the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistan government realized that whether or not the UN body designated JuD as terrorist, it would be compelled by the US to act against the group,” it said. “In the circumstances, it felt it would be better to be seen to be acting under UN orders rather than pressure from India or the US. Hence the Pakistan-China decision to go along with the other Security Council members this time,” it quoted the MEA official as saying.

Personally, I don’t really understand what is going on in the India-Pakistan-China equation (largely because I don’t know much about China). So instead, I’ve drawn up a list of questions on which I’d appreciate comments and which I aim to address in subsequent posts:

1) Has China decided that given its growing stake in the global economy, it has a greater interest in encouraging peace between India and Pakistan?

2) Has it become as important, or more important, a player in South Asia than the United States?

3) If it is aiming now to become an even-handed arbiter between India and Pakistan, why are there still so many problems along the Indian-Chinese border?

4) Why, if China was such a reliable friend of Pakistan, did it refuse to bail out its economy and leave the civilian government there with no option but to turn to the IMF?

5) What do we make of the fact that Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani made his first visit to China, while President Asif Ali Zardari went to the United States?

6) What is the long-term gameplan? And what does this mean for South Asia and the rest of the world?

Are there other questions out there that need to be asked?

(Pictures: Reuters October file photo of Presidents Hu and Zardari in Beijing/David Gray)


1. It is in China’s interest if Pakistan pursues a course of terrorism in India.
2. China is gaining in South Asia. It does not want credit at this moment.
3. China arbites to its own benefit only. It keeps India and Pakistan on their toes.
4. China is for Chinese interests.
5. Kayani visited China to pay his respects. Zardari had only heard of Sarah Palin.
6. ? Obama will tell us?


as i answer the questions, keep in mind that china’s government tries to be rational and pragmatic. therefore, everything it does is for its own national interest. THey dont always succeed because they are only human, but, unlike many other world players, they DO try.
so here are my humble answers

1- china probly has decided that it IS in fact in its own greater interest to promote peace, even if it only to enhances china’s image of global responsibility

2- if china is not mroe important than the USA, then china is one of the major runner ups.

3- China is not trying to be an “even handed arbiter”. china is only trying to act in its own interest. also, as a few posters pointed out, the border disputes between china and india are being played down by both china and india, because both are economic minded and dont want to make such a big deal out of it.

4- china is not an “all weather friend” of pakistan, china acts in its own self interest. china doesnt want to risk losing money for a failed state as pakistan. china can already get all it wants out of pakistan anyways. no need to risk all that money.

5- he prolly just wanted to try and keep ties warm between pakistan and china. same reason the pak president was visiting america.

6- china will continue to act in its own rational self interest. in doing so, china will release statements calling for both sides to calm down, or for both sides to have talks, or some other generic, neutral, un-inflamatory sounding stuff.

are there other questions to be asked?
try this one:
what are china’s current interests in pakistan? what will china’s interests in pakistan be in the future? what interests does china have in india?

the answers to those three questions will be the most insightful regarding china’s policy towards the reigion of south asia.

Posted by questionist | Report as abusive

i forgot to say something in my last post

“It is in China’s interest if Pakistan pursues a course of terrorism in India.”
-posted by yudhvir singh chaudhary

i think this comment was posted in a spirit of anger and cynicisim but still, it brings up a good point.

china and india are rivals. they both are rising fast, both are competing for power, both have rapidly growing economies that will compete with each other. the are neighbors, so they will naturally have more to fight over. thus, a weaker india means a more comparatively powerful china.

i doubt china is involved in the terrorism in india, or anywhere. with all those muslims in xinjiang, any funding could easily backfire. plus i doubt chinese intelligence is powerful enough, stealthy enough, sophisticated enough, to fund muslim organizations without having the plot discoverd rather soon. china is not going to risk its whole international image by funding a few terrorists so they could strike a few petty blow against india. theyve got better ways to try and limit indian power, and they also have better, more pressing and domestic issues to contend with.

even so, the fact remains that china and india are strategic rivals. its not a zero sum game between them, but they do stand in each others way.

discussions for another time…

Posted by questionist | Report as abusive

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