US seeks China’s help to quell militancy in Pakistan, says report

May 26th, 2009 - 7:36 am ICT by IANS  

Richard Holbrooke Washington, May 26 (IANS) The US administration has urged China to provide training and military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing threat of terrorism in the country, a media report said.
The proposal is part of a broad US push to enlist key allies of Pakistan in an effort to stabilise the country, the Boston Globe said Monday.

The US is seeking to persuade Pakistan to step up its efforts against militants, while supporting the fragile civilian government and its tottering economy.

Richard Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, has visited China and Saudi Arabia, another key ally, in recent weeks as part of the effort.

Washington’s appeal to Beijing underscores China’s importance in security issues. The US considers China to be the most influential country for dealing with North Korea. China also plays a crucial role in the international effort to pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

China traditionally has been reluctant to intervene in other countries’ affairs. However, Chinese officials are concerned about the militant threat to its west, fearing it could destabilise the region and threaten China’s growing economic presence in Pakistan.

A senior US official, while acknowledging China’s hesitation to become more deeply involved, said, “You can see that they’re thinking about it.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject.

US officials believe China is skilled at counterinsurgency, a holdover of the knowledge gained during the country’s lengthy civil war that ended with a Communist victory in 1949. And with China’s strong military ties to Pakistan, US officials hope China could help craft a more sophisticated strategy than Pakistan’s current heavy-handed approach.

The Pakistani military has used artillery and aircraft against the Taliban extremists in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas in its ongoing offensive. “They’re very focused on hardware,” the senior US official said of the Pakistanis. But the fighting has forced more than two million civilians to flee, UN officials estimate, threatening a humanitarian crisis.

The tide of displaced persons could set off a backlash against the anti-militant effort among ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom already see the fight as driven by American, rather than Pakistani interests.

China’s strategic alliance with Pakistan reaches back to the 1960s. China has sold Pakistan billions of dollars worth of military equipment, including missiles, warships, and tanks.

China also maintains a huge economic presence in Pakistan. China’s ambassador, Luo Zhaohui, said in a speech earlier this month that 10,000 Chinese engineers and technicians work in the country.

But China is increasingly concerned about the Pakistani insurgency, in part because Muslim separatists from the northwestern Chinese region have trained in Pakistani camps.

Officials in Beijing are also concerned because of recurrent kidnappings and killings of Chinese workers in Pakistan. China has repeatedly pressed the Pakistani government to protect its citizens.

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