America has finally found a role for China in resolving the war in Afghanistan. Washington knows that stability in Pakistan is as critical to winning the war as is defeating the Taliban. Pakistan’s ally China can help.
In recent years, American military aid has been flowing into Pakistan with seemingly limited results. Government buildings and local army headquarters are targets of attack every so many weeks. Unmanned bombing of suspected Taliban hideouts has only helped aggravate resentment against the American involvement in Pakistan; an involvement the Pakistani government has also begun to question.
The Pakistanis are cautious. They remember America left the region before, after it supported the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Union. It could leave again.
Moreover, Pakistan is suspicious of Washington’s close ties with India: a good thing for Washington but not so good for Islamabad, which recently accused India once again of sponsoring terrorism against it.
Given the circumstances, Washington’s plea for a reinvigorated campaign against the Taliban is unlikely to stir enthusiasm in Pakistan. But it might if that plea is repeated from Beijing.
Despite China’s great interest in the region — specifically, in its natural resources — the country has not had a significant role in Afghanistan. With Pakistan, it appears that the Obama Administration has found something useful for China to do: convince the Pakistanis to do their bit.
China has the leverage to make such a demand. Seeking to prop up Pakistan as a counterweight to India, China has since the 1960s invested in Pakistani energy and infrastructure. 80 percent of Pakistan’s population considers China a reliable partner.
Thousands of Chinese workers live in Pakistan. They built a port in Gwadar through which Middle Eastern oil is shipped to China. China also has a stake in containing Uighur separatists who hide out in Pakistan’s northwestern border region.