China's recent failure to shield Pakistan from censorship by an international anti-terrorism funding and anti-money laundering body suggests Beijing is struggling to balance its contradictory interests in South Asia, says an expert on Asian and Middle Eastern affairs.
In an article published in the lobelog.com web site, James M Dorsey, a senior fellow at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, opines that China may be trying to evade the potential cost of its long-standing support for Pakistani-backed anti-Indian militants.
This balancing act was most visible last month when Beijing joined Britain, France and the United States in supporting the grey-listing of Pakistan by the 37-member Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and gave Islamabad three months to clean up its act or face being blacklisted for alleged lax controls on the funding of militants.
According to Dorsey, the FATF action while negatively affecting the Pakistan's economy, also, puts the squeeze on China for being "Politically and economically heavily invested in Pakistan."
China's approach at the FATF constitutes the second time in the last six months that Beijing has criticized Pakistani policy towards militants. The first occasion was at the BRICS Summit last September.
Dorsey maintains that China's refusal to back Pakistan in FATF constitutes recognition of the fact that Beijing is walking a fine line due to Washington's pressure and focus on persuading Islamabad to crackdown on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
He cites the example of China shielding Saeed, who has a 10 million dollar bounty on his head imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as sanctioning by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) prior to the Mumbai attacks.
It is on record and well-known that China has repeatedly vetoed moves by the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masoud Azhar as a terrorist.
"Men like Saeed and Azhar serve China's interest of keeping India off balance as well as the People's Republic's relations with the powerful Pakistani military, which it views as a more reliable partner than Pakistan's unruly and rambunctious politicians. The policy has, however, taken its toll and threatens to be increasingly risky," claims Dorsey in his article.
However, be that as it may, China remains increasingly concerned about the possibility of attacks by Uyghur Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq in its north-western province of Xinjiang.
Taken together, China's contradictory Pakistan-related policy moves suggest that it may be graduating to a point at which it decides that it no longer can afford to play both ends against the middle. That would likely lead to China and the United States towing one line in Pakistan, concludes Dorsey, who is also co-director of the University of Würzburg's Institute for Fan Culture.