Comments by China’s ambassador in Islamabad last Thursday highlight the reckless character of the Obama administration’s escalating intervention in Pakistan. By pressuring Islamabad to wage an all-out military offensive against Islamic insurgents in the Swat Valley and neighbouring districts, Washington is not only destabilising Pakistan but raising tensions in a highly volatile area.
Speaking to Pakistani business leaders, Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui pointedly voiced concern about the growth of “outside influence” in the region. He singled out the US in particular, saying that China was worried about US policies and the presence of a large number of foreign troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. While reiterating China’s support for “the fight against terror,” Luo declared that US strategies needed some “corrective measures”. He added, “These are issues of serious concern for China.”
Luo’s unusually blunt remarks came just one day after US President Obama spoke to his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao. While a number of issues were discussed, the escalating war in Pakistan was clearly high on the agenda. This first publicised phone call between the two men came as Obama met with the Afghan and Pakistani presidents over US strategy in the two countries. While Hu reportedly offered his cooperation, Luo’s comments express China’s underlying fears over growing US influence in South Asia.
Last week’s tripartite summit in Washington signalled a major upsurge in military violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under intense pressure from the US, the Pakistani army has launched a large-scale offensive against militants in the Swat Valley in which hundreds have already died and hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee. The summit, however, involved more than discussions on military cooperation, outlining comprehensive plans for the closer economic and strategic integration of the two countries into an American sphere of influence.