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Chinese Aid to Pakistan in Counter-Terrorism : Response to US Request?

Replying to the debate on the budgetary demands of the Ministry of the Interior in the National Assembly on June 24,2009, Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, said: “Due to the efforts of the President and the Prime Minister, the Chinese Government has provided $290 million for capacity building of our security forces.” Even though he did not specifically say so, the capacity-building he was referring to is in the field of counter-terrorism. This would be in addition to continuing Chinese assistance to the Pakistani Armed Forces to strengthen their capability against their Indian counterparts.

2. The decision of the Chinese authorities to assist Pakistani capacity-building in counter-terrorism was officially conveyed to Malik when he visited Beijing and Shanghai from June 9 to 12,2009. The visit was preceded by the Pakistan Government’s handing over to the Chinese of 10 members of the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan despite objections from the Amnesty International, which feared that these Uighurs might be executed by China without proper trial, The Pakistani authorities, who officially revealed the handing-over on June 5,2009, as reported by the “News” of June 6, claimed that these Uighurs, who were rounded up during the Pakistan Army’s counter-insurgency operations in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), belonged to the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). They have not indicated when they were rounded up. However, it is understood that the Amnesty International has been taking up their case since March. This would mean that they must have been rounded up in or before March,2009.

3. The “News” of June 6 reported as follows: “According to some sources in Islamabad, the Chinese militants were extradited despite opposition by the Amnesty International. In March 2009, Tim Parritt, Deputy Director of the Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme, had observed that whatever these militants were accused of, the risks posed to them were extremely grave, if forcibly returned to China. He had maintained that under the international law, states were obliged not to expel, return or extradite any person to a country where they risk torture or other ill-treatment. However, the Pakistani authorities insist that all those who had been extradited to Beijing were involved in terrorist activities both in China and in Pakistan and had also developed links with al-Qaeda network in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They said the fact that the ETIM militants had extended their network of terrorist activities to Pakistan was evident from a threat they had conveyed to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, saying they intended to kidnap Chinese diplomats and consular officers stationed in the Pakistani federal capital with a view to highlighting their cause. The Chinese mission subsequently informed the Pakistani authorities in a letter that some members of the ETIM had already reached Islamabad and planned to kidnap their staffers from the federal capital. The letter reportedly pointed out that terrorist groups located in Pakistan, including al-Qaeda, had been providing support to the ETIM activists for the likely kidnappings. Subsequent investigations had established that the anonymous threat was issued by none other than the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and that the would-be kidnappers had first travelled to Jalalabad in Afghanistan to finalise their plans.”

4. During his stay in Beijing, Malik met State Councillor and Minister for Public Security Meng Jianzhu, the Communist Party of China Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang and the Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who hosted a dinner for him. There were no reports of any meeting with President Hu Jintao or Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

5.Talking to pressmen in Beijing, Malik said: ” We have signed a number of agreements to build the capacity of our law enforcing agencies. We have signed agreements worth $ 300 million to acquire state of the art equipment to combat terrorism. The first consignment of these most needed equipment would be reaching Pakistan within three weeks. We want to ensure that our law enforcing agencies are well equipped, so that they could thwart with full force militancy. The equipment Pakistan needed included most modern mobile scanners that can detect hidden explosives and drugs. Initially, we would start employing these equipment in the metropolitan cities under threat of terrorism, like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi and then gradually we plan to cover the entire country. ”

6.On June 12,2009, a blogspot of the “People’s Daily” of China devoted to military issues had the following commentary: “Will China play a more “direct” role in both the Pakistan and Afghanistan conflicts? During the past two days, both Afghanistan and Pakistan are sending envoys to China to ask for China’s “direct” help in their fight against militants. The previous attempts to draw China into the conflicts by both NATO and US met with little success as China preferred to stay in the background and aid only in forms of financial and hardware support. China’s previous rejection to joining the military coalition is understandable as others have noted; while China does not view NATO/US missions in Afghanistan with suspicion compared to other Shanghai Co-operation Organisation states but allowing a military alliance to use China as a military supply route seem to undermine the Chinese Security-Umbrella that took 60 years and four wars to build. In addition, such an act violates China’s core foreign policy doctrine of non-interference in others’ internal affairs. At the same time, the core Chinese military doctrine is changing with the release of the new “Outline of Military Training and Evaluation” which for the first time placed focus on Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) role for the PLA outside of China’s borders and anti-terror operation is considered part of the MOOTW. China is hosting the first “Non-traditional Security Forum of Armed Forces of ASEAN, China, Japan and ROK , something unthinkable just a few years ago. Maybe China is ready to move out of the “hide my capabilities and bide my time” phase to the “make some contributions” phase to be in line of what Hu coined the “harmonious world” (a.k.a, making the world safe for Confucianism) in his “Go Abroad” policy shift. It is also noted that both the Pakistan and Afghanistan’s request is coordinated and without “US/NATO involvement” which makes the request a bit more politically acceptable in China and the statement by Rehman Malik that “Pakistan has handed Chinese nationals accused of insurgent activity back to China and will continue to do so” is clearly aimed at audiences in China. Judging from China’s Foreign Ministry Press Release , China might be ready to take a more direct role. China is ready to further expand and deepen our cooperation in various fields on the basis of mutual benefit so as to push forward our comprehensive partnership of cooperation.”

7.Some weeks ago, the “Los Angeles Times” had reported that Richard Holbrooke, the US Special envoy on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, had visited China and requested it to play a more active role in assisting Pakistan in counter-terrorism. Is the new “direct role” by China under its newly-formulated MOOTW doctrine an immediate response to the US request? In this connection, reference is invited to my article of May 27,2009 titled “Obama And Counter-Insurgency in Chinese Colours” at .

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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