Boao forum for Asia: Gilani says China’s enemy is our enemy

PM Gilani with China’s Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang

BOAO, CHINA: Pakistan and China moved in lockstep a notch higher than their “time-tested” and “all-weather” friendship status on Sunday when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared that “China’s enemy is our enemy”.

“China’s friend is our friend, and China’s enemy is our enemy,” he said in a meeting with the host country’s Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang at the State Guest House on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia.“We consider China’s security as our own security,” Gilani said as he renewed support for Beijing’s position on Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.Li reciprocated Gilani’s sentiments. “No matter what changes take place at the international level, we will uphold Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “China supports Pakistan’s role in regional and international affairs.”

Beijing’s reiteration of support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity came weeks after US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking independence for the insurgency-hit Balochistan.Premier Gilani thanked Li for his country’s ringing endorsement of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Islamabad gives high importance to the security of Chinese citizens on its soil, he said and added that he was personally monitoring the process to provide them extensive protection.A Chinese woman was shot dead in Peshawar in February. The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that they killed her to “avenge the atrocities carried out by Chinese security forces” on Muslims in Xinjiang.

But PM Gilani renewed Pakistan’s support for China’s position on the Muslim-majority region. He condemned the recent ‘terrorist acts’ in Kashgar, Xinjiang, and said that Pakistan considered the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a common threat to both countries.Last month, gunmen stabbed 13 people to death in Xinjiang in an attack that Chinese officials blamed on ETIM separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan and who were allegedly trained in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Officially, Beijing avoided criticism of Pakistan though.

About foreign policy, Gilani said Pakistan is mindful of the importance of maintaining a working engagement with the United States but would not compromise its sovereignty and national dignity. He referred to his meeting with the US President Barack Obama in Seoul, where he told him that Pakistan’s parliament would set the contours of future relations with the US.China is engaged in a large number of projects in Pakistan, especially in the energy and infrastructure development sectors. Gilani said Islamabad would appreciate if Beijing also helps in the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project and on the construction of small- and medium-sized dams. He also sought cooperation from the Chinese side on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Washington has issued several veiled threats about economic curbs if the Iran gas pipeline is not cancelled.But Premier Gilani renewed his country’s resolve to not abandon the project – which is so vital to overcome the burgeoning energy crisis that has sparked violent protests and rioting in the country.“Realisation of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will open new vistas of cooperation,” Gilani told Iranian Vice President Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh in a separate meeting on the fringes of the Boao Forum.

“Pakistan is currently facing energy shortage,” Gilani said and added that 1,000 megawatts of electricity being supplied from Iran to Balochistan would prove helpful in overcoming the crisis.Gilani said there was a need to address the issues of narcotics and drug trafficking in the region. He added that Pakistan considers Jundullah as a terrorist outfit. Iran has blamed the Sunni insurgent group, which is based in its Sistan-o-Balochistan province, for stoking violence in the country. Jundullah is rumoured to have sanctuaries in southwestern Pakistan.

On the regional front, Gilani said Pakistan wants to maintain good ties with its neighbours, including Iran, Afghanistan, China and India and called for joint efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. He also renewed support for Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. Western powers contest Tehran’s nuclear programme and allege that the Islamic Republic is secretly developing an atomic bomb.At the two-day international Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been making his pitch for Pakistan to be given access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes on a non-discriminatory basis.

He argued that nuclear technology was required to meet Pakistan’s growing energy needs. The National Command Authority, Gilani revealed, had approved a Nuclear Power Programme for 2050 to increase energy production from nuclear sources. Pakistan, he went on, had taken effective measures to enhance nuclear security. Underlining the importance of the second Nuclear Security Summit being held in Seoul, the prime minister expressed the hope that the Summit will lead to breaking new ground on the evolving global nuclear security architecture, the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and protection of nuclear materials and radioactive sources.

He pointed to the IAEA’s approval of the safeguards agreements of the two civil nuclear power plants (supplied by China) as reflective of the world’s continued confidence in the safety and security standards of the country. The agenda the Summit has set itself is reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism through curbing trafficking and improving the security of nuclear installations.Pakistan is vying to be accepted internationally as a responsible nuclear state, one deserving membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This is not an easy task, given the bad track record of the country vis-à-vis nuclear proliferation.

It may be recalled that Pakistan stands accused of passing on nuclear know-how to North Korea, Iran, and Libya under Gaddafi. After Musharraf persuaded Dr A Q Khan to fall on his own sword and accept responsibility solely, Pakistan has been trying to regain its lost reputation in this regard. Some water has flowed down the rivers since that ignominious episode, but the world will still need persistent persuading that Pakistan has turned a corner and should no longer be looked at with suspicion or reservations. Gilani even offered to train nuclear experts in Pakistan, another effort to indicate that Pakistan had nothing to hide (unlike in the past). Pakistan’s track record and its recent coming closer to Iran on the gas pipeline, purchase of electricity from Iran and enhanced trade and economic cooperation could negatively impact its diplomatic efforts on the civilian nuclear use issue.

It should not be forgotten that the most powerful country in the world, the US, frowns upon Pakistan’s closeness with its neighbour, accused as Tehran is of pursuing nuclear weapons. The US has refused to commit on whether it will treat Pakistan’s request for nuclear technology sympathetically or not if and when Islamabad applies for it.Nuclear power has of late become even more controversial after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Many states, including developed ones, are backing away from or not as vigorously pursuing nuclear power. Safety standards may have improved in the nuclear industry, but the immensely powerful elemental forces of nature mankind is trying to tame have the potential at any given moment to cause immense damage and loss of life.

Then the problem of disposal of nuclear waste (an inevitable by-product of the nuclear fuel cycle) has yet to find satisfactory resolution, given that such waste decays over thousands of years. There is no doubt that Pakistan is facing a critical energy crisis that is causing immense losses to the economy. Pakistan cannot therefore put all its eggs in one basket. With the caveats outlined above regarding safety, if Pakistan pursues its nuclear power goals, it must not shut its eyes to the need for a diverse energy mix to overcome the country’s energy deficit. We tend to resent India’s success in getting a civilian nuclear deal from Bush. But we must pursue friendly countries like Turkey to help us in the conventional energy field while continuing to engage the world on nuclear energy issues. – Thrtribune