Pakistan warns US, pledges closer ties with China

Updated On: Sep 28, 2011

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has warned the United States it must stop sending negative messages about Pakistan. Separately, Mr. Gilani also praised Pakistan's relationship with China, following high-level security talks with a visiting Chinese minister. According to analysts, Pakistan may be attempting to drum up support from China amid worsening relations with the US.

Last week, the outgoing chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the Haqqani faction of militants in Afghanistan was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's ISI spy agency.

Mullen also accused Pakistan of providing support for the Haqqani group's September 13 attack on the US embassy in Kabul. This is the first time the US has held Pakistan responsible for an attack against the United States.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr. Gilani argued: "The negative messaging...is disturbing my people. If there is messaging that is not appropriate to our friendship, then naturally it is extremely difficult to convince my public. Therefore they should be sending positive messages."

According to Mr. Gilani, Washington must provide the "political space" for his government to convince a sceptical Pakistani public of the value of a relationship with the US. Anti-Americanism is rampant in Pakistan, and has reached new heights after US Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Mr. Gilani said Islamabad has conveyed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that further unilateral action to hunt down militants on Pakistani soil "will not be acceptable to Pakistan".

"We are a sovereign country," Mr. Gilani said, "how can they come and raid in our country?"

Mr. Gilani added that the Pakistani public believes the US favours India over Pakistan. He noted that Washington has struck a deal on civilian nuclear cooperation with New Delhi, but not Islamabad.

But in response to Mr. Gilani's comments, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "The US does not consider this a zero sum game: US-India or US-Pakistan. We need and we seek good, strong relations with each."

However, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "the Pakistani government needs to take action to deal with the links that exist there", referring to the Haqqani network. The US has been pressing Pakistan to attack the Haqqani network, which it believes is based in Pakistani territory near the Afghan border, but analysts say Pakistan views the Haqqanis as a counterweight to the growing influence of India in Afghanistan and is highly unlikely to go after the group.

However, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar struck a more conciliatory note when she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, saying her country is still committed to cooperation with the US.

"Given the volatility of the situation, it is perhaps understandable that there is a high level of anxiety and emotions," she said.

Report: Pakistan PM warns U.S. against fanning anti-Americanism [Reuters, 27 Sep 2011]

Report: Pakistan pushes back against U.S. charges, woos China [Reuters, 27 Sep 2011]

Meanwhile, Pakistan is drumming up support from China, determined to keep relations with its key ally on track to offset its troubled alliance with the US.

Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu concluded two days of meetings with Pakistani civilian and military leaders on Tuesday. Officials say the discussions focused on strengthening cooperation against terrorism and cross-border crime.

The Pakistani government pledged to attack Uighur militants opposed to the Chinese government who are hiding in Pakistan. Last month, China said Muslim Uighur extremists from China’s western Xinjiang region are using Pakistani soil for training and launching attacks on China. In July, two attacks left 21 dead.

"We are true friends and we count on each other," Mr. Gilani said, in separate comments broadcast on television networks after talks with Mr. Meng.

"China's enemy is our enemy, we will extend our full cooperation to China on security."

The promised cooperation with China stands in contrast to Pakistan's reluctance to take action against the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, as demanded by the US.

Pakistan’s increasing contacts with its longstanding ally, China, are seen by some Pakistani officials and independent observers as part of an effort to fill any possible diplomatic and economic gap should Washington decide to reduce its engagement with Islamabad.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on China to begin a dialogue with the US regarding China's relationship with Pakistan.

However, according to a Reuters commentary, it is questionable how far China would support Pakistan in any confrontation with the US.

In a statement released by the Pakistani Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Gilani said: “Pak-China friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.”

But while talks with Mr. Meng dominated Pakistani headlines, the Chinese media has not covered the minister's visit to Pakistan with equal emphasis. Instead, Chinese news on Monday and Tuesday instead focused on increased economic cooperation with India, following a dialogue in Beijing.

Report: Pakistan in anti-terror pledge to China [AFP, 27 Sep 2011]

Report and Analysis: Pakistan, China Hold High-level Security Talks [Voice of America, 27 Sep 2011]

Analysis: Pakistan’s China Syndrome [Reuters, 27 Sep 2011]

Related Article