Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Bajwa took questions from some of the attendees at a security dialogue held recently in Islamabad, and responded to them as a battle-hardened officer, a region’s history student, and as a gentleman who won’t let the old man in -by all means.
“How do you see security cooperation with China progressing in the next decade?,” he was asked.
Bajwa: “We are not looking for camp politics. We had historically excellent relations with U.S. The good army we have today is largely built and trained by US. The best equipment we have is U.S. equipment,” he said.
“We still have deep cooperation with U.S. and our Western friends,” he said. “A month back American Air Force was here for a huge exercise with our Air Force,” the General added.
“China of course is a very important neighbor and has helped us in many ways,” the intellectual General pulled the balancing act. “Our military cooperation with China is growing because we are denied equipment from the West,” he said, and added, “Many of the deals which were concluded have been cancelled. So what do we do? I shall just give you an example: We bought T129 helicopters from Turkey. It’s a very good machine… the deal was signed…it’s a defensive weapon…it’s a gunship. But the engine was of American origin. So the Americans refused to give the third party certification.”
The General: “So what do we do? Either we wait, or go somewhere else… either go to Russia or go to China. We will prefer to maintain a balance. Similarly, we were looking for some submarines and the Germans were supposed to give the engines and everything was done. When the submarines were ready, the Germans refused to give us the engines. France has done the same… of course, under the Indian pressure, because India is a big buyer. So what do you do?”
“It is your responsibility to maintain the balance,” he said. “If you are tilted toward one side out-rightly, we’ll find sources from where we can get weapons to protect ourselves,” Gen. Bajwa alluded to ‘balancing act’ a two-way street. “You need to carry out introspection, whether your policy is right or not.”
“We have been your allies for a very long time, we were part of SEATO, CENTO and Baghdad pact. We supported you in Vietnam, we supported you in Afghanistan, we helped you dismantle the erstwhile Soviet Union, and the muck you created yesterday (Afghanistan) we are trying to clean that.
“So we have paid a lot of costs. What are you doing about us, I must ask you the question. Are you maintaining a balanced approach or not?”
He highlighted the multi-billion dollars Pak-China Economic Corridor, saying, “CPEC is a very important development. There was a problem in Pakistan that we had shortage of electricity…huge shortages. No body was coming forward because there was lots of terrorism…so the Chinese stepped forward and they took the risk and they built these plants. But it doesn’t mean that Pakistan is a no go area. If you feel that there is too much of a Chinese influence in Pakistan, the only way to counter is…by bringing in the counter investment. Who stops you?
The General pointed out that Canada’s Barrik Gold is returning – after an agreement, to restart the Reko Diq project in Balochistan.
The project hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped open pit copper-gold porphyry deposits.
“So we will welcome investment and cooperation(s)…,” he told the attendees -the Canadian Ambassador was present at the Dialogue.
Irshad Salim, Islamabad