There seems a euphoria amongst Indians on the reported indications of Pakistan being put on the watch list on terror financing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at Paris on February 23. The Pakistani establishment in their typical deceit and denial mode has rubbished the report with a caveat that let it come officially. The significance of this report does not lie in what India or Pakistan are saying, but it distinctly reflects the hard geopolitics of external players in the South Asian region and signs of shifting strategic paradigms. What happened in Paris was waiting to come sooner or later as Pakistan refuses to see reason in the futility of their policies to use terrorism as a strategic weapon.
China, for the first time, has not supported Pakistan which is the biggest strategic take in the entire episode. Assertive prompting by the Trump administration has probably done the trick as they obviously are not happy with the double game being played by Pakistan when it comes to affairs in Afghanistan. Currently, China is primarily concerned about the success of their CPEC scheme, their biggest political investment in recent times. If Pakistan is not bailed out of the situation, then the politico-economic dreams of China would be doomed forever. Hence, Chinese were compelled to review the consistent support it has given to Pakistan all these years despite Pakistani political irrationalities.
The US needs Pakistan for sustaining their forces in Afghanistan. Accordingly, substantial financial grants have been given to Pakistan since the 1980s when Afghanistan came under US strategic radar to push out Russians and, now, for control of the Central Asian Region. Pakistan has been indulging in duplicity; on the one hand, giving support to the US in their GWOT and, at the same time, continuing with their complicity in propping up Taliban affiliates in Afghanistan and ferment insurgency in Kashmir. Trump administration has seen through the Pakistani bluff and suspended financial aid till Pakistan shows improvement. US warning to Pakistan is, No More- Do More.
Improvement in the security situation in Afghanistan is a common compulsion both for the US as well as China, albeit for different reasons. The US is looking at bringing about national reconciliation to evolve a political dispensation which would be loyal to them and take care of their strategic interests. While it has not happened despite their 15 years of politico-military investment and financial incentives to proponents of violence in Afghanistan, hence, there is a need for tougher alternate measures. As regards to China, they are looking at the safe passage of goods and services of Central Asian and landlocked Eurasian countries who want to be part of CPEC bandwagon. Unless Afghanistan is politically stable there would be no economies of scale for Chinese plans. Therefore, it is a strategic call for China.
Besides above, the US and China are the biggest trade partners and their prosperity and national powers are dependent on their mutual support. The Chinese economy is also dependent on outsourcing the manufacturings of the western world which they, obviously, cannot afford to ignore. Hence, US and China seem to be on the same page in FATF confabulations and an apparent shift in Chinese stance in their strategic interests.
One can understand the compulsion of China in adopting a neutral stance instead of voting against Pakistan in FATF. This policy deviation is symbiotic of Chinese concern as regards to Pakistani complicity in terrorism in the areas of their geopolitical interests. China also realises that Pakistan has nuisance value to jeopardise the CPEC scheme with their jihadi mechanism at their time and place of choosing. It may well include the start point of CPEC at Xinjiang itself, or anywhere else astride the envisaged economic corridor. Therefore, they have chosen to be neutral, a diplomatic stance with elbow space to revert, thereby, retaining their political flexibility.
China, with their surplus funds, is also aspiring to play a dominant role in global financial institutions and control mechanisms. FATF is one such body which has influence over fund allocations by IMF, World Bank and other such international financial institutions.The US and India are reported to have assured support to China for the higher slot in FATF in return for showing their neutrality to Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. China obviously has taken the bait, signalling their intentions to contribute towards neutralising terrorism.
The other traditional supporters of Pakistan from the Islamic world also seem to be changing their political tracks with emerging threat to West Asian economies in the face of changing the geopolitics of oil and gas world over. Saudi Arabia, GCC members and Turkey were persuaded to stand down on the issue of continuation of their support to Pakistani dispensation. They have seen the reason lest they are isolated in emerging opportunities with the economic centre of gravity shifting to Asia.
The writing on the walls is quite clear, the world is concerned over Pakistani involvement in the spread of terrorism. In that, even the longtime confidants of Pakistan seem to be prompting Pakistan to mend their ways and review political priorities. These are signs of changing strategic paradigms probably a step towards an emerging world order in which China is trying to be a significant contributor. Politics of strategic compulsions is in play which is projecting new possibilities of political synergies in the region. A positive beginning has been made which needs to be encouraged and nurtured.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)