China has been nourishing the dream to be the global leader since the day terror struck US on 9th of September 2011. The US first time lost its sheen, when its economic pride and its security smugness went notionally shattered in the fall of twin towers.
Europe has been engaging its region with peace treaty and economic alignments within its territorial management with the demise of the Cold war. China after that eventful Sino-American treaty in 1972 could come out from its hibernation and moved for its economic and technological prosperity with the opening out in the era of globalization. Europe, since Thatcher-Regan neo-liberalism moved towards its conventional welfare statehood, and is unwelcoming to the immigrants. England prefers to move with its strict historicity, identity and economic security beyond the European Union.
China, since late 70s of the previous century, with each passing year was enriching its economy, receiving technological inputs and transfers from US, officially and unofficially. It has left behind Europe and is rubbing shoulders with US.
The Soviet Union could not last up to the century. It fell under its own burden substantially, and partially to the Sino-US treaty of 1972, where Pakistan played an important role. The process of disintegration of the Socialist Republics (USSR) began in the late 1980s and ended on December 26, 1991, when the Supreme Soviet voted the USSR out of existence. The demise of the Cold War created imbalance in the world order. Muslim countries got into an euphoria, through non-state agents and the state support.
The notional consensus that the civilizational superiority of the Christian world was to be dethroned. It gave drifting exhilaration to the Muslim world to see the west as adversary and especially the US; the other was on its way to decline. China stole the moments after taking best from the US. It maintained a principled distance from Russia, followed the plan with precision to be a hegemon in the region. Pakistan, with its background of golden 1960s could have taken the advantage, but lost its golden moments; ironically it played wanted to bleed India, and became a grooming ground for all armed groups in the Cold war against the Soviet Union. The advantage that China utilized, Pakistan missed from late 70 to early 90s, when huge grants and transfer of technologies could easily pour in from the West and the Muslim countries into Pakistan.
It utilized it in Afghan jihad, nuclear fortification and lavish life style of its elite. China, on the other hand created infra structure and a faultless industrialization. China deliberately used animosity of Pakistan to keep it engaged and far off from the development plans. Think tanks say, had Pakistan used the grants pouring from the Western and the Muslim countries, it could have surpassed China in the first quarter of this century. And golden break was utilized by China to gather itself and keep Pakistan a grooming ground for the militant organizations against the West and India, its arch adversary.
While India, despite territorial challenges in Punjab and Kashmir, could do relatively better than Pakistan in its development index, its secularism and representative democratic space got squeezed. It had to deal with the different voices politically, unlike China. Pakistan deliberately has been first used by the West and the US, and now by China. It is in a strategic illusion. I
A meanigful engagement between India and Pakistan could be the best thing to happen to the world order, and the peoples of these two countries. China plays its tacit strategy. It allows Uygur Chinese Muslim population of 13.4 million Muslim populations in Xinjiang region to suffer, yet Pakistan loves to be dictated to by China.
It is happy so long its anti India tirade runs unquestionably to keep people singing the songs of China's might. On the other hand, its elite not only have liking for the West and the US, they also know that US, a multi-religious global leader, is far more acceptable than the monolithic, communist China. China understands it. It has highly indebted Pakistan and paved way for its imperialism through ambitious OBOR. It knows, through Iran it can reach Syria and have edge over West Asia as well. Pakistan steadily promotes it.
This is the irony of elite politics playing religious card. It is revisiting of 1970s, (1972-Sino US Treaty) when Pakistan tried to play a negotiator between China and US against Soviet Union and in the bargain Pakistan got support from both the countries for anti India tirade. In 2020, it is again playing the role of a broker to make other Muslim countries to woo China. Nepal, Sri- Lanka, are already under China's thumb. Now Imran is pursuing Sheikh Hasina to get her along in the camp of China. While India must be rethinking its foreign policy directions, as we see the regional dynamics and international order is undergoing metamorphosis. With the recent developments at its eastern border with China, things must have undergone a shift in the minds of the Indian leadership. It is difficult to believe that China has not encircled India through its neighbor countries, which are satellites to China. US, Japan and Australian post covid-19 proximities are welcome, but it is finally India has to speak out against the ugly game China is playing against India. India has never annoyed China openly, despite China each move being against India's interests.
May it be support to Pakistan on Azhar Masood, keeping Kashmir alive and blocking India's entry to UNSC, or time to time display of muscle on borders. It has openly revealed its intensions to checkmate India. India has to be firm, but only a sustained engagement with China can be useful, not the war mongering. Business is alright, but India cannot depend upon the outside support to remain dependent on the US.
If, Democrats come to power, they are not inclined towards India. For its support and funding base, unlike past, more or less rests on anti-Indian stance. It is high time that the leadership in India and Pakistan realized that there is a better future in mutual understanding. There is much common between India and Pakistan socially and culturally. Only peace can make the two prosper.
Pakistan and India need to understand that they are poverty stricken countries. They need peace. No doubt, China as a power cannot be ignored.
Ashok Kaul is Professor Emeritus, Banaras Hindu University.