Former envoy to US says Obama admin would like China to induce Pakistan to abandon its role as a terrorist safe haven
Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, has said that instead of exhausting itself in competing with an Indian neighbour six times its size, Pakistan needs to confront religious extremism, eliminate terrorism and pursue economic reforms that they talk about but do not implement.
In an opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Haqqani also urged Pakistan’s elite to start paying taxes to overcome one of the worst tax-to-GDP ratios in the world.
Haqqani said that China’s $46 billion investment would be a shot in the arm for Pakistan’s faltering economy and consolidate a decades-old strategic partnership. He said that the US has shown little apprehension over China taking the lead in helping Pakistan build critical infrastructure. “The US cannot inject billions of dollars into Pakistan, a difficult ally at the best of times. From Washington’s perspective, it makes sense to let China help stabilize Pakistan’s economy. The country’s productivity has been marred by power outages and, according to the World Bank, Pakistan loses up to 6% of gross domestic product every year due to energy shortages and poor transport facilities,” he wrote.
According to Haqqani, the Obama administration would also like China to induce Pakistan to abandon its role as a terrorist safe haven. “But China’s economic reassurances could also reinforce Islamabad’s miscalculations about its regional clout and dangerous ambitions of keeping India strategically off-balance through subconventional means, including terrorism,” he added.
The former envoy said that unlike the US, China has refrained from lecturing Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders, creating an impression of consistency lacking in US-Pakistan ties. China has been a major supplier of military equipment to Pakistan and was particularly helpful in Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons.
By supporting Pakistan militarily, China has ensured that a large part of India’s military remains tied down in South Asia and is unable to challenge China in the rest of Asia. But India remains the larger market and China’s willingness to use Pakistan as a secondary deterrent against India hasn’t meant abandoning ties with New Delhi. Chinese trade with India in 2013 was $65 billion, six times its trade with Pakistan.
Haqqani said that Pakistan would benefit if all the billions in Chinese investment come through, but not all previous announcements of Chinese largesse have materialized in Pakistan or elsewhere. Despite announcing plans for more than $24 billion in investment into Indonesia since 2005, a decade later China has invested only $1.8 billion there, he added.
“China’s investment in Pakistan, and indeed investment from other sources, would materialize more easily if Pakistan put its house in order. Instead of exhausting itself in competing with an Indian neighbour six times its size, Pakistan needs to confront religious extremism, eliminate terrorism and pursue economic reforms that they talk about but do not implement. Pakistan’s elite needs to start paying taxes to overcome one of the worst tax-to-GDP ratios in the world. Defense spending needs to be rationalized and critical investments made in education to overcome a paucity of skilled manpower.”