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Editorial

Encircled!

M. Ziauddin

A brand new world is in the making.

Marked emphatically by a catastrophic pandemic, the Covid-19, the cut-off point between the one in the making and the one on the wane is denoted by an ascending China against the backdrop of a descending America while ringing in, at the same time, a riotous end to a tumultuous four years of Trump presidency.

Pakistan finds itself right in the midst of this whirling new world.

On the one side we are bound by our friendship with an ascending China; linked physically to the Northern neighbour via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an essential wedge of Beijing’s all-encompassing but still under-construction global trading routes called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

On the other, we find America wanting ostensibly to walk away from our war-torn neighbor Afghanistan, bringing to an end, with our help, its so-called forever- war without, hopefully, losing face. Lately, our eastern border has become too hot for our good as India, a strategic partner of the US, has been, under the BJP rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spoiling to launch another false flag operation against Pakistan. Had it not been for the fact that relations between India and China have been worsening over the past few months, perhaps India would have carried out its threat by now. Perhaps to avoid a two-front situation Modi has held his hand, temporarily.

Meanwhile, the US is building up India via the Quad (Australia-India-Japan-United States), an ‘Indo-Pacific’ military alliance to contain a rising China. The emerging equation has given rise to a war-like situation between the waning US and China on the go. A truly Thucydides trap, a term which describes an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power (China, currently) threatens to displace an existing great power (the US, presently) as the international hegemon. The cold war had remained cold all along until it ended with a whimper because the Soviet Union posed no economic threat to the US. It was purely a military threat and was taken care of as such. The economic challenges that the US faced from Japan in the decades of 1980s-90s had not accompanied any military threats, therefore, the Japanese challenge was overcome with no difficulty at all. But the Chinese threat is both economic and military. Therefore, it would be almost impossible for the US to resist the temptation of waging a hot war. The US has already provoked China when President Trump in August last year sent, for the first time since 1979, high ranking US officials to Taiwan. The trip marked the highest-level visit to Taiwan by a Cabinet secretary since the year the US established formal diplomatic relations with Beijing and ceased to recognize the government in Taipei. And a thoroughly provoked China on Jan. 20, reciprocated by sanctioning for the first time ever 28 US officials including former President Trump’s Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo. These individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao.

Either because of lack of scientific data or because 63% of our population being between the ages of 15-33 years and over 65 only 4.2% and women making up 48% the incidence of Covid-19 has appeared to be not as widespread as it is in many other countries. Perhaps the right choice of the vaccine and the right choice of the population to be vaccinated earliest could relieve us of the devastation earlier than other countries, hopefully. The choice having been made by the circumstances obtaining currently on which side of an emerging bipolar world we should be we could for a change consider lessening our dependency on others and stand on our own two feet by learning from China the skills needed to attain a modicum of true sovereignty. And also, we should without much loss of time probe the possibility of trading with China in Yuan because over the next decade or so, Yuan is likely to challenge and displace the dollar from its top perch. Still, there is no reason why, while enjoying the best of relations with China, we cannot oblige the US with the needed assistance to make it possible for Washington to end its forever war in Afghanistan, though it is difficult to see at this point in history the US leaving a neighbourhood physically so close to the emerging rival (China), an about- to- become-a nuclear power (Iran) and a declared nuclear power (Pakistan) threatening from the safety of Chinese side its eastern neighbor being built up by the US to contain China. And of course, ideologically Pakistan and China would certainly feel threatened to see Taliban, at the end of it all, having a free run in Afghanistan.

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