Making bilateralism work


The benefits of CPEC are beginning to show. For Pakistan, that is. And by this we don’t mean in terms of the massive financial investment that is being thrown our way — and for which we will be paying through our nose to pay back. And then some. But what we do mean is that the juice may just well be worth the squeeze. China, after all, is taking the flak for us over Kashmir. India last week rejected Beijing’s offer to mediate in the disputed region on the grounds that it was ready to talk directly to Pakistan without the need for third-party interference. This has been the official position of India and there is no surprise here. In this case the issue gets even more complicated as India and China also have some unresolved border issues as well as certain infrastructure discord. Yet for the Pakistani government — the Indian rejection plays into its hands. It is thus able to recast itself in the role of honest broker, and one that is scuppered at every turn. Our Foreign Office played its hand well when it issued a statement condemning the recent attack on Hindu pilgrims, the first-ever such denouncement from our side. In fact, so well did we play this that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti publicly rebuked China for not condemning this most recent tragedy. Before going as far as naming the country as one of the external forces meddling in the disputed region.
This is perhaps not the right strategy. We say this not to absolve the Indian side of the gross human rights violations it is committing in the region. We say this simply to point out that persuading a regional economic giant to fight our battles is likely to backfire. Who knows where Beijing’s focus may turn once its engagement in our country stops being profitable? But above and beyond that — it is no substitute for honest peace brokering. And the onus of that rests firmly on our shoulders as well as those who lie directly across our eastern border.