‘China keen to set up military bases in Pak’
Islamabad: While Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at Gwadar in Balochistan, Beijing is more interested in setting up military bases either in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) or the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) that border Xinjiang province, senior Pakistani journalist and author Amir Mir has said.
The Chinese desire is meant to contain growing terrorist activities of Chinese rebels belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) that is also described as the Turkistani Islamic Party (TIP), Mir wrote in Asia Times Online.
The Chinese Muslim rebels want the creation of an independent Islamic state and are allegedly being trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he stated.
“According to well-placed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, Beijing''s wish for a military presence in Pakistan was discussed at length by the political and military leadership of both countries in recent months as China (which views the Uyghur separatist sentiment as a dire threat) has become ever-more concerned about Pakistan''s tribal areas as a haven for radicals,” Mir said.
“Beijing believes that similar to the United States military presence in Pakistan, a Chinese attendance would enable its military to effectively counter the Muslim separatists who have been operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost a decade, carrying out cross-border terrorist activities in trouble-stricken Xinjiang province,” he added.
Pakistan intends to counter-balance Indian naval forces by having a Chinese naval base in the Gwadar area, Mir, who is the author of several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being ‘The Bhutto murder trail: From Waziristan to GHQ’, quoted knowledgeable Defence Ministry sources in Islamabad, as saying.
“However, diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Beijing, which has no military bases outside its territory and has often been vocal in criticizing American moves for operating such bases, first wants to establish military bases in Pakistan, which could be followed by the setting up of the naval base,” the senior journalist said.
”Therefore, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie promptly dismissed (on June 6) suggestions that Beijing was carving out a permanent naval presence in India''s neighbourhood,” he added.
Analysts say that China's deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and the joint plans to set up not only new oil pipelines and railroads, but also naval and military bases, are enough to set alarm bells ringing in New Delhi and Washington.
The repercussions are particularly stark for India because both Beijing and Islamabad refuse to accept the territorial status quo and lay claim to large tracts of Indian land that could come under Chinese sway once Beijing is allowed to establish military bases in Pakistan, Mir noted.
“The fact that Gilgit and Baltistan is located in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir presents India with a two-front theater in the event of a war with either country. By deploying troops near the LoC and playing the Kashmir card against New Delhi, Beijing is clearly signalling that Kashmir is where the Sino-Pakistan nexus can squeeze India,” he concluded.