August 2, 2011 1:23:41 am
The reported visit of ISI chief Lt Gen. Shuja Pasha to Beijing starting Monday comes amidst two very different story lines. One is the deterioration of relations between Washington and Rawalpindi. The other is the concern in Beijing about Pakistans safe havens for Islamic extremists operating in Western China.
Reports in the Pakistani media on Pashas trip to Beijing have highlighted the first. Meanwhile,Chinese media has pointed a rare finger at Pakistans terror camps for the recent attacks in Xinjiang.
The spin in Rawalpindi is that Pasha will launch a new strategic dialogue with China as part of the effort to reduce Rawalpindis traditional dependence on the US. If Pak Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani wants to play the China card against Washington,his inability to deliver on Beijings terror concerns would be a limitation on his power play.
According to Xinhua,investigations into the attack in Kashgar,Xinjiang,over the weekend,point to Uighur separatists who had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan.
It is premature to hold that the triangular relationship between Washington,Rawalpindi and Beijing is about to witness dramatic changes. But the strains are real.
However,for all its recent difficulties with Pakistan,Washington is a long way from concluding that bilateral ties are irreparable. Nor has China indicated it is ready to replace the US in Pakistan.
The attack in Xinjiang must create some doubt in Beijing about Rawalpindis ability to deliver on anti-China terror groups. It is quite possible that either Beijing summoned Pasha to explain the activities of the Uighur extremists on Pakistani soil or Pasha has volunteered to debrief the authorities in Beijing.
If Pakistan cant control terror groups on its territory,its ability to bargain with both Washington and Beijing will begin to diminish.
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