By Haider Abbas
One single move, in this otherwise Corona-period, which has supposedly altered the entire body-politic in and around the world was the announcement from China to invest 400 billion USD in ‘market and military’ in Iran ( March 2021). This happened all while as the withdrawal of the US occupation forces from inside Afghanistan was taking place, and US President Joseph Biden had acceded to office, thus, giving a fillip to the entire Middle-East which has by and large has always remained in the US group. China’s move towards Iran came only when Iran had stood against US for more than five-decades, and also in accordance to China’s most grandiose plan of Belt and Road Initiative, whose flagship programme is China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor.
Here, it may be also referred that India’s PM Narendra Modi’s friend, the outgoing US President Donald Trump, had referred the ‘K’ word for twice, within a fortnight, which made Modi ‘jump-the-gun’, and abrogation of Article 370 from JK&L, one of the main political plank of BJP, was announced on August 5, 2019, within months of Modi’s re-run to the office. Apart from BJP political agenda, the move was made, at the behest of US to make India throw a spanner in CPEC which goes from the Pakistan side of Kashmir. By early next year, the Indian army chief had said that India was ready to attack Gilgit-Baltistan, which forced Pakistan, on the advice of China, to make it a separate province. Both China-Pakistan, in the next one year, took the issue to UNSC for thrice. India and US are sworn opponents of CPEC. Now after two years, what we find is an aggressive Pakistan and a belligerent China, hand-in-hand against India and India looking for US, despite BECA and QUAD, but what has been stunning for India, is that it has lost its old rapport with Russia, after it courted towards US. There are now all out aggressions from Chinese side, more precisely after Galwan Valley clash in which 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese soldiers lost their lives on June 15, 2020.
It can also be put into perspective that when US outgoing President Donald Trump, goaded Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Muhammed Bin Salman, to make United Arab Emirates embrace Israel, on August 14, 2020, which irked Pakistan to the hilt, alarmed China, as the move was to monopolize the whole of Arab market into US favour, which made China announce the deal with Iran, and therefore, also to make Pakistan and Iran become more closer. As understood, the Arab states, during the 11 days war of Israel on Palestine (May 2021) , were to remain mute ( there were no noises from Turkey too), and that, the war could end into a ceasefire only when Russian President Vladimir Putin directly threatened Israel ambassador to Moscow Alexender Ben Zvi to stop the war or else Russian forces were ready to attack Israel from Russian bases from Syria. Nothing bigger a slap was to have been pasted on Biden’s face who had only three days earlier announced that US was to give 735 million USD of military aid to Israel and the on May 21, 2021, the war rhetoric fizzled-out. The signal was clear, Russia and China had fully entered the Middle East arena and US was set to become a waning force.
Today Ukraine is on an edge as Russian invasion on it, for once it was a part of Soviet Union, may be or not happen any moment. The six hours talks with French President Macron and three-hours talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz with Russian President Viadimir Putin have failed to yield any result, as after all, this situation has arrived after a joint declaration of China’s Premier Xi Jinping and Putin, to fight each-other wars at the inauguration of Being Winter Olympics where representatives from Middle East also sat, sniggering at US. This paradigm shift of Arab states towards China owes a role to Pakistan, and this, aspect is what India needs to watch. Any move which Pakistan makes needs to be watched in India.
Pakistan out of its all-weather-friendship with China has been able to befriend Russia which is to the consternation of New Delhi, and Pakistan PM Imran Khan presence at Beijing Winter Olympic while its boycott from India, are cards going averse to India’s concerns. There are now two-visits on the cards-the visit of Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa to US on February 20 to be followed by Imran Khan to Russia on February 24, whose outcome will have to be watched very keenly in India as Pakistan has, after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, clearly steered away from US, and also that KSA has signaled to gravitate towards Pakistan as well, as Biden does not seem to have symmetry with KSA in the wake of the allegations of KSA Crown Prince MbS involvement in the murder of the scribe Jamal Khashoghi.
If things may be put into order, then there is a berserk activity around Pakistan, where soon after the return from Beijing, Imran Khan met with KSA Interior Minister Saud Bin Naif, for its concerns over Houthis ( Yemen) rebels as it is expected that Pakistan will exercise its relations with China to make it prevail over Iran to stop its support to Houthi, and now it is leant that Iranian Interior Minister Ahmed Wahidi, with his nine-member delegation visited Pakistan on February 14, so as to meet the Pakistan’s concerns over the alleged use of Iran’s soil against Pakistan in Baluchistan. This visit was perhaps to work out the details for the probable visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Pakistan in very near future, and there is also a likelihood that KSA MbS is also slated for an early visit to Pakistan. Will Pakistan start to make a bridge between the rivals KSA-Iran? If yes, then it is all to be the doing of China, while US will have to watch in helplessness.
The war clouds over Ukraine seem to have been a bit halted as Ukraine has assured not to join NATO and not to move towards US. It may therefore be said that Russia has tilted an advantage towards itself much to the ado of US and allies. The big question which throws open an absolute new vista is what if Russia now enters the Middle-East to groom the region outside the US influence with China already much into it. How will then US streamline its policy inside Middle East, with particular reference to Israel, as its only protectorate state? What if Russia starts to become more visible inside Syria with its technology against Israel? This is all what is to be seen. Meanwhile, India remained tightlipped over Ukraine in QUAD meeting, which was good, as India is not in a position to invite Russian anger, all the while as India tends to enter into the Indo-Pacific conflicts alongside US against China.
But, the world right now is on tenterhooks as the conflicts around Taiwan, Ukraine, or in the Himalayas can conflagrate any moment, what is to happen next is to be awaited.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.