Saturday, February 28, 2009

Does China love Pakistan

Sorry for the delay on this, but did anyone else notice that Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, was in China last week?

Over four days, he went to Hubei, had a look at the Three Gorges Dam and visited Shanghai. I'll forgive anyone who didn't spot him, however, since his trip was totally eclipsed by the arrival of Hillary Clinton.

It was Zardari's second trip in just five months, and he has promised to come back to China every three months. To India's irritation, Pakistan has jumped into bed with China with gusto.

Zardari wrote a fawning editorial in the China Daily to mark his visit, exalting the Sino-Pakistan relationship as "higher than the peaks of the Himalayas" and paying tribute to China as "shining star" on the world stage thanks to the "sound management" of the Communist Party.

He offered up Pakistan's ports, Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar (which the Chinese built) to Chinese ships and said that Pakistan could "help channel energy supplies from the Gulf to China".

Pakistan has even laid down and asked the Chinese to intercede in its negotiations with India over the Mumbai bombings, a move that left Indian politicians spitting mad.

But the Chinese side seems a little less enamoured. The highest official available to speak to Mr Zardari was a member of the State Council, Dai Bingguo, who is relatively senior, but not the sort of figure the Chinese would normally trot out for a head-of-state.

Zardari glumly admitted on his trip that his country "has not benefited to the extent it should from its relations with China".

And while China is splashing money around Africa and South America, it hasn't given Zardari huge sums. Pakistan needs around $14 billion to get its bankrupt economy back on its feet, but China has only coughed up a $500 million loan and told Pakistan to go to the IMF.

In fact, the Communist Party is apparently doing business with Zardari's enemies, the Pakistani Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami. The Chinese have agreed with JI that it won't help any terrorists to attack China in Xinjiang, the far-western province.(Telegraph UK)