China & Russia set to take more external miles!

Saeed Minhas
Has Pakistan again been chosen by an arrangement of super powers of the world to become harbinger of a change for returning the world from uni-polar to a bi-polar status? More important than what the super powers are capable of and what they are planning for their ends is the fact that Pakistan is finding itself on just another cross-road. If one leads towards the bitter friends in far off lands, the other takes them to closer pastures.
Leaving the neighbours and vying for the distant relatives has been the case with Pakistan since its independence, therefore, for the time being, the establishment is trying to balance itself by having one foot in each boat and hoping for the respective masters to pull them on one side of the bargain by showing them the better political, economic and regional prospects.
But as they say in diplomacy that its not considered as a marriage for life but a contractual marriage where both parties weigh only their own ends just like crude businessmen, so if Pakistan continues to hope for shifting gears without calculating the risks, there are more chances of it getting soar feelings after being used by both the sides.
With deadline of US-led NATO forces leaving Afghanistan by 2014 approaching fast, scrambling for the influence in Afghanistan has already begun. A low profile visit of a Chinese security official to Kabul, Russians new found love for Pakistan and un-even relations between US and Pakistan—which has delayed if not stalled the strategic dialogue between the two countries—are considered as omen for a change not only in regional but international politics.
For altogether different reasons but like Pakistan, Afghanistan continues to attract attention of all the super powers of the world, therefore Chinese pristine focus on the troubled lands of Hindukash is nothing new but what is startling for many around the region and globe is an expansionist China riding on high tides of its economic growth with a soaring ego and a growingly unstable internal politicking. Equally noticeable has been the slow awakening of Russian bear from its economically and politically dehydrating slumber.
With a recorded history dating back to 200 BC, China has seen many ups and downs. From imperialism to civil war, from border conflicts with Soviets to wars with Japanese dynasties, from Tibetan wars to border disputes with India, China has got a claim on almost every side of its border. The recent one with Japanese is yet another example while the ones with India and Taiwan are in the pipeline.
Having seen the collapse of Soviets and knowing the importance of Afghanistan for its regional lead-role, Chinese seem all set to jump into a foray which has historically become a proven grave-yard of super powers since slaughter of British troops in Kabul during the early days of great-game I.
Access to hot waters and using the famous silk route (or should we call it the energy route now because silk seems to have vanished long time ago and instead energy rich countries are straddling across this route) from Central Asian States has always been envied by every super power, therefore, China is no exception. Especially when once experienced and bitten campaigner like Russia is ready to offer the anchoring services to China, either bilaterally or through Chinese initiated Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where US has not even been admitted as an observer so far. The grouping, which is led by China and Russia and was set up to counterbalance U.S. and NATO influence is filled with four other Central Asian States while Pakistan, India and Afghanistan among others have been given observer status.
It is interesting to note that Soviets agreed to not make any hue and cry when Americans invaded Afghanistan in lieu of maintaining the oil prices above 30 dollar a barrel mark to ensure that they remain economically alive and able to pay off the heavy debts to world donors, which Americans obliged without any fuss. Chinese on the other hand has always remained silent and tried to push its economic empire ahead of all regional players and international players and successfully managed to stand as number two economy of the world in the same time.
While Americans announced the draw down plans, only concern of Chinese has been to ensure that Americans should not leave a bigger than expected mess behind them to spin the whole region into an unending de-stability. Whether they will get this desire fulfilled or not is not sure but inviting Afghanistan to SCO as an observer and opening of a new tri-lateral table with Karzai and Zardari shows that they do not want to remain aloof to the developments in this region. With Russian president Vladimir Putin ready to play as second fiddle thus gaining membership of WTO and all other possible entries into the capitalist clubs, and China becoming the need of developed world, both are looking ahead to free the regional pythons from off-shore influences and resolving their lingering issues through mutual dialogues or through SCOs.
Even this is considered as a task by the power-duo (Sino-Russia), it does not seem that easy because first of all China has to grow out of its internal political mess. A transition of leadership is already scheduled for November marred by the expulsion of Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai from the Chinese Communist Party and the mysterious disappearance of heir apparent Xi Jinping in early September, further uncertainty and instability is the last thing Chinese would want at this point in time when they are looking at outwards expansion. Then Japanese and Taiwan’s crisis also speaks of potential unrest within mainland because a minor miscalculation or apprehensive step might invoke military pacts between these two adversaries and US, under which US is bound to help them against any foreign aggression.
Russia being involved deeply in its former states has to look at Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and many other territorial disputes within former Soviet Union to overcome these issues. Unless they don’t do this their chances of bringing adversaries like Pakistan and India over the SCO tables seems bleak.
Observers, however, believe that after having mixed and matched their economies as per the capitalist clubs in a very sublime manner, Chinese and Russian seem to have evolved a strategy to sort out the internal mess by looking and expanding outwards. May be learning from their own history or from recent US strategies, it seems that both are planning to capture more external miles to heal the internal fractures.