Imran Khan: Pakistan Must Help Bridge US-China Gaps Rather Than Joining 'Cold War-Style Bloc'
12:33 GMT 09.12.2021 (Updated: 18:02 GMT 08.12.2022)
Pakistan was designated as a major non-NATO partner of the US back in 2004 and played a key role in the US-led War on Terror in Afghanistan. At the same time, it has also enjoyed strong relations with its “all-weather friend” China, which has built infrastructure and connectivity projects in the country as part of One Belt One Road (OBOR).
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan
has expressed concern that growing geopolitical differences between the US and China risk entrapping Islamabad in a Cold War-style bloc, while addressing a think tank conference in Islamabad on Thursday.
“The situation is moving towards (another) Cold War and we are (again) moving towards the creation of blocs,” Khan said during a keynote speech hosted by the government-backed think tank Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.
“Pakistan must stop such a situation from developing. We must not be part of any bloc,” Khan added.
“The world, including Pakistan, has already faced the repercussions of the Cold War,” said Khan, referring to Islamabad’s backing of the US during the 1979-89 Afghan War. During the war, Pakistan was instrumental in channelling US-sponsored arms and the routing of Mujahideens into neighbouring Afghanistan to fight the Afghan government and Russian troops.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was also a member of the now-disbanded US-led South-East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO), a Washington-led grouping designed to check Moscow’s influence in the region.
Islamabad seceded from SEATO after its loss to India during the 1971 War of Liberation, which led to the dismemberment of erstwhile East Pakistan from Islamabad and the creation of Bangladesh.
14 September 2021, 11:57 GMT
Recalling Pakistan’s role during the Cold War, Khan said that his country had been put in a difficult situation.
“We want to be a nation which brings people together,” he explained and argued that Pakistan could play a constructive role in managing differences between Beijing
and Washington like it had done in the 1970s.
“Pakistan had played a role in opening up China to America back in the 1970s,” stated Khan.
A key regional ally of the US at the time, back then Pakistan is said to have facilitated the visit of ex-President Richard Nixon to Beijing. The visit marked the first ever official contact between the two nations.
Khan’s remarks on trying to navigate the differences between China and the US come a day after his government reportedly declined an invitation to participate in the virtual "Democracy Summit, set to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on 9-10 December. India, the Maldives, and Nepal have also been invited to the US-backed conference.
China has been scathingly critical of the so-called Democracy Summit, after not featuring in the invitees’ list. Beijing has launched a major diplomatic offensive against America’s notion of democracy, instead hailing its own governance model as a “democracy that works."
Pakistan’s Mediatory Role ‘Appreciated’ by Iran and Saudi Arabia
During his address, the Pakistan Prime Minister also noted that Islamabad’s mediatory role in trying to resolve the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia had been “appreciated” by both nations.
Khan was referring to his shuttle diplomacy between Tehran and Riyadh last year, in the wake of escalating tensions between the regional rivals after several of Saudi’s oil facilities were targeted by drone attacks by Houthi rebels based in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s Defence Ministry blamed the attacks on “Iranian involvement."
Last year, PM Khan claimed that his mediation eased tensions and averted a military confrontation between the two nations.