Expectations from Beijing

Overly relying on China to carry most of the weight of the work needed is just the sort of attitude that is not needed

Editorial February 21, 2014
President Mamnoon Hussain (L) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands prior to their meeting at the Great Hall of Peoples in Beijing, China on Fenruary 20, 2014. PHOTO: PID

Perhaps, the only place in the world where Pakistani politicians embarrass themselves even more than they do in Washington is Beijing. The use of crass superlatives to describe this relationship is cause for diplomatic embarrassment and it is the basis of very dangerously misinformed foreign and economic policy.

On his first trip to Beijing, President Mamnoon Hussain fell victim to the same old habit, basing his dialogue more on superlatives than practicality. There is no question that Pakistan’s relationship with China is important, and it is a longstanding alliance that Pakistan must seek to preserve. But far too often, our leaders have begun to look upon China’s wealth and power as a crutch, and an excuse for the country not to reform itself, but rather continue to muddle along while relying on the benevolence of other countries.

Take, for instance, the notion of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor idea. Most of Islamabad appears enthralled with the idea that not only does China need access to the port of Gwadar, but that it would build a massive road and rail link between cities in western China and the Makran coast for this access. One would hope that in this venture Pakistan would keep its expectations realistic and do the work needed by it for this to be a success. Overly relying on China and expecting it to carry most of the weight of the work needed is just the sort of attitude that is not needed.

The truth is that Pakistan desperately needs to build the infrastructure in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan so that it at least matches the level of Punjab and Sindh. But instead of trying to build that for ourselves as a national endeavour, we are hoping the Chinese will do it for us. This approach is just lazy and misguided. Surely, the Pakistani people deserve better.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2014.

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