Pakistan has long claimed China as its “all-weather” friend, an ally in good times and bad. This is beginning to change. This past weekend, TAI contributor Saim Saeed noted that Saudi Arabia is increasingly taking on that role for Pakistan. On the other side of things, recent events have made Pakistan a less appealing ally for China—not least because Uighur militants continue to arm and train in Pakistan. Reuters spoke to Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party, a group China has classed as a terrorist outfit:
“China is not only our enemy, but it is the enemy of all Muslims … We have plans for many attacks in China,” he said, speaking in the Uighur language through an interpreter.“We have a message to China that East Turkestan people and other Muslims have woken up. They cannot suppress us and Islam any more. Muslims will take revenge.”The separatists hide mainly in the troubled North Waziristan region, where they are treated by their Pakistani Taliban hosts as guests of honor, militant and Pakistani intelligence sources say. […]Pakistani intelligence sources say they number about 400 fighters, and are clustered around the remote Mir Ali area, sharing bases with other foreign insurgents, particularly Uzbeks, who speak a similar language.”
China likes to sell itself abroad as preferring not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, but Uighur activity in Pakistan presents an exception, as it directly affects China’s national security. Hundreds have died in clashes between the Uighurs of western China (which borders Pakistan) and Han Chinese. China has expressed its increasing frustration with Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to address the militant groups and training camps that allegedly reside in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The militancy has gotten so bad that even India and China have put their military rivalry aside to conduct joint anti-terror drills. Some Chinese investments in the Pakistani economy are also failing to pay dividends as a result of terrorism complications, and many Chinese engineers have been kidnapped or killed.Whether this is the result of Pakistan’s inability or its unwillingness to tackle terrorism, Pakistan’s “all weather” friendship with China is under stress.