Pakistan should look at alternatives to China, G7 initiative on global investments is historic opportunity, says expert

·6-min read
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Islamabad [Pakistan], June 22 (ANI): Pakistan should look at alternatives to its alliance with China and not miss a historic opportunity of 'Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative' launched at the G-7 June 2021 Summit and which aims to influence, broadly within a decade, 40 trillion dollars-worth of worldwide investments, according to an analyst.

Paulo Casaca, Founder and Executive Director of the 'South Asia Democratic Forum' and a former member of the European Parliament points out in an essay that Pakistan would be short-sighted to ignore this opportunity of the B3W.

He writes that historically, Pakistan and China have shared an "all-weather friendship" and strong security and defence cooperation since the early 1950s based on their common enmity towards India.

A new landmark in this bilateral relation being the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China's external projection of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The said alliance gained a strategic dimension through the pivotal role by Pakistan in facilitating the Sino-US rapprochement, which also led to further Sino-Pakistani military cooperation, particularly nuclear cooperation, says the article on the SADF website.

In the post-9/11 era, Beijing and Islamabad ostensibly kept an official line of strategic cooperation in fighting terrorism in the region and building peace in Afghanistan, which was recently reaffirmed in China, Pakistan and Afghanistan's joint declaration of June 4, 2021.

However, according to Casaca, China, in reality, mistrusts the strategic capacity of the Pakistani deep state to control the jihadist movement it set in motion - and the cooperation is less than strategic.

Casaca cites other experts to point out that "despite their enthusiastic rhetoric, Pakistan and China have little in common in terms of either history, culture, or language. The two countries have different political and social systems."

He cites a June 2021 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, titled 'The Local Roots of Chinese Engagement in Pakistan' to say that both countries, being apparently conscious of this reality, believe that a forceful cultural engineering attitude will eventually bridge the gap.

Apprising Chinese cultural diplomacy achievements in Pakistan, the analyst points out that an insightful look at the question of language and cultural 'homogenisation' would certainly lead to a considerably more cautious attitude.

China's 'policy of Sinicization' towards its own minorities in Tibet and East Turkestan (Xizang and Xinjiang, respectively) stand as the harshest cultural forced assimilation we can find in the world today and is hardly reassuring for neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, says Casaca.

The European analyst writes that the imposition of Mandarin is a crucial aspect of this policy and quotes Zhou from a June 4, 2021 report.

"Learning to speak Mandarin is considered critical in the identification with the unified Chinese nation. In recent years, minorities in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and other minority communities have been coerced into learning Mandarin. Resistance to this approach leads to punishments, including re-education camps, detentions, job loss and financial retribution. Bilingual teaching and research became a political taboo in Xinjiang and other minority areas, with the government forcing academic journals on the topic to close and scholars to instead research Mandarin education," Casaca notes.

Chinese cultural diplomacy should, therefore, be seen with caution, especially taking in consideration Pakistani's reminiscent persecution of native languages, he adds.

The Carnegie report, points out the analyst, also highlights the Chinese news agencies' advancement in the Pakistani media panorama: 'Xinhua launched a Xinhua Pakistan Service in October 2019 in partnership with Independent News Pakistan, a local media organization. The expansion of Xinhua's Urdu service is significant, as Urdu news audiences account for much of the domestic market. This move seems to be in sync with Beijing's broader strategy of localizing information and disseminating it through partners within the country.'

Furthermore, Xinhua has placed its newsfeed prominently on Dawn's homepage. The news stories do not focus on Pakistan exclusively but also highlight China's views on key issues of global interest, China's technological achievements, and its ongoing support for developing countries in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Other leading newspapers like the Express Tribune regularly print stories on the benefits of the CPEC and China's economic support to Pakistan.

Casaca writes that what the report by the 'Carnegie Endowment for International Peace' does not mention, but which is much telling about this Chinese cultural embrace, is the increased persecution and censorship of independent journalists that dare challenge the official line and Sinification of the media.

The analyst says that Pakistan, a country created from scratch seven decades ago, has been obsessed with the need to create a new identity that would justify the swift separation from the rest of the Indian sub-continent - where it belongs and where its peoples played a vital role in the past thousands of years. This effort was translated into the downplaying - in some domains, erasing - of all identity traits that do not relate to the Islamic colonisation. The hypertrophic, fanatic reading of Islam and the denial of its ancient cultural identity, most obviously existing mother tongues, constitute two dramatic side effects.

"Islamic fanaticism has been promoted as the new cultural identity and as the main instrument of foreign policy. This seriously hindered the cultural heritage of the country's different peoples as well as the nation's capacity to embrace modernity, freedom, and development. Furthermore, the domestically cultivated Islamic fanaticism became difficult to control by its own creators, as contemporary Jihadism aims at blurring any sort of national identity in the design of a new caliphate."

However, for the deep state, the once vibrant civil society and the cultural diversity of its peoples remain a problem, a problem which may be managed through a sort of authoritarian mind-set alternative to Islamic fanaticism - that is, the authoritarian mind-set offered by the Chinese Communist Party, which, in the name of growth and development, would further subdue the country's cultural diversity, freedom of expression, and the remains of the Pakistani democratic building.

Casaca says that there are alternatives. "The EU-India Connectivity Partnership approved in the summit of May 8, 2021 which took place in Porto, Portugal, is based on 'shared values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights - comprising four chapters, (1) digital; (2) transport; (3) energy and (4) people-to-people in 'a transparent, viable, inclusive, sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based approach' to connectivity."

"What I call the 'spicy-network' is seeing its first steps being built through this connectivity partnership, which is worked at a larger scale and with wider ambitions in the 'Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative' launched by the G-7 June 2021 Summit - aiming to influence, broadly within a decade, 40 trillion dollars-worth of worldwide investments," he wrote.

Pakistan would be short-sighted to ignore this opportunity! Learning foreign languages is a must, and this obviously applies to Mandarin, the most spoken language in the world; however, it should never be endeavoured at the expense of mother tongues, the author states, adding that gaining access to information is also positive, but to be submitted to an information-control foreign framework is disastrous.

"To engage in the 'spicy network' is to engage in development within a democratic and free framework, respectful of identities and human core values. Pakistan should look into this alternative direction!," writes Casaca. (ANI)

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