Will China Make Friends in Pakistan?
Earlier this week, the Asia Times Online reported that China is planning on building military bases in northern Pakistan. This might not be a good idea. The benefits are clear: support Pakistan to balance a rising India and reduce religious extremism that might spill over the border into China.
China wants to set up bases in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) or the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). FATA and FANA are outside of Islamabad’s control. They are governed by tribal leaders from the times when the British gave up on the region after failing to take complete control. Basically China will be moving next door to the Graveyard of Empires, into a place that seems equally unfriendly.
Here are just a few of the risks:
- Radical Islam Style. We know that Osama bin Laden’s original anger against the US was partly the existence of American bases on Saudi soil. Pakistan is home to 160+ million Muslims and the law of percentages says there should be enough extremists among them to be upset at Chinese military bases in their backyard.
- Radical Islamic terrorists hate the US for supporting Israel and because it represents the major force behind globalization, a trend they totally oppose. China’s extension of its power could make it lose the impression of being eastern and different. Throw in the frequently reported news that China oppresses its Muslim minorities, and you have a nasty recipe for radical Islam’s newest jihad.
- Pakistan cannot be trusted. Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) probably knew about Osama bin Laden’s location for years. There are links between the ISI and the Taliban. The ISI has been training and arming terrorists to carry out attacks in India and Kashmir. The ISI has become more independent from the government over the last few years.
- This will anger India. Some Indian reports say there are already Chinese troops in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
China should learn from America’s mistakes, rather than repeat them.