Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani Wants from China

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani Wants from China

Article excerpt

The Pakistan premier may be trying to forge a loose alliance between China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to undermine US influence in the region.

As Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani meets his counterpart in China this week one country will likely be hidden somewhere on the agenda: Afghanistan.

By traveling to China, Pakistan may be trying to underscore China's value as a counterweight to the US. Mr. Gilani has reportedly also tried to bring Afghanistan into China's camp to form a de facto alliance between the three countries.

Such a pact could shift the balance of power in the region. China has watched with some concern as the US develops a strong foothold in Central Asia and would like to expand its influence. But while Afghan President Hamid Karzai has often butted heads with US officials, it remains unlikely that he would join Gilani to steer the nation away from a strategic alliance with the US.

"Afghanistan cannot get as much benefit from other treaties as they have from their with America," says Ahmad Sayeedi, an independent political analyst in Kabul and former Afghan diplomat to Pakistan. "If we look to the nature of most international treaties, except for NATO, they are just symbolic. They haven't taken any major actions until now."

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Neighboring China sees Afghanistan as a valuable market for its goods. The two countries have had official diplomatic ties since 1955. A Chinese company signed a contract to develop copper mines in Aynak, which south of Kabul, that are expected to bring $1 billion a year to Afghanistan in taxes and fees. Even President Obama has acknowledged the importance of China in Afghanistan. During a visit to Beijing in late 2009, he asked China to help stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Still, Afghanistan is not in a position to turn its back on the US, the world's preeminent economic and military power. …

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