In a move depriving Pakistan of even chance to save face, the US has banned Pakistan International Airlines from flying to the US. The US Department of Transportation has revoked permission for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to conduct charter flights. The US cited concerns about almost one-third or Pakistani pilots having fake licenses, which was a revelation made by Pakistan’s own Aviation minister. The European Union has also banned PIA for six months.
Islamabad which is already reeling under the burden of a crippling debt crisis, a severe economic downturn and global isolation is losing the goodwill of the world. At a time when Chinese expansionism is facing global backlash, the world is also in no mood to let the Islamic Republic go scot-free for giving geopolitical and geo-strategic aid to China.
According to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), an Amsterdam-based think tank has stated that Pakistan’s regional machinations no longer figure at the top of Washington’s strategic priorities. Rather, the US is preparing for the big battle for influence against China.
Pakistan is no longer important to the US, in fact it is part of the axis that the US frowns upon. We already know that since the US State Department has designated it as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”. The State Department recognises that Pakistani “madrassas reportedly continued to teach ‘extremist’ doctrine.”
In fact, the State Department report had also stated that “many madrassas failed to register with the government or provide documentation of their sources of funding or to limit their acceptance of foreign students to those with valid visas, a background check and the consent of their governments, as required by law.”
The report did recognise Islamabad’s role in the US-Taliban peace dialogue. But it also took cognisance of the perfidious role that Islamabad played in Afghanistan by supporting terror groups active in the war-torn country. The report further asserted, “Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges in protecting its borders, particularly those with Pakistan and Iran
Washington has been drawing itself away from Pakistan having recognised the devious role that Islamabad played against American interests in their fight against the Taliban. Pakistan has been facing backlash in the United States especially after Osama Bin Laden was found and eliminated in Pakistan’s Abbottabad. This was also the reason why Donald Trump hammered Pakistan with aid cuts when he came to power.
But in the changing geopolitical context and the growing centrality of the Indo-Pacific, Islamabad is positioning itself for still greater fury. Islamabad is a rogue player that is helping another rogue player, Beijing in achieving its geo-strategic goals.
The US along with other “like-minded countries” like India, Japan and Australia wants to contain Chinese influence in the Region and encircle it from all corners so that China remains a green-water navy, and its expansionist tendencies are tackled efficiently. But Pakistan is creating loopholes in the global encirclement of China.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which starts from the Chinese province of Xinjiang and passes through Pakistan-occupied Indian territories of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir, gives China direct access to the Balochistan province and the Gwadar port in Pakistan.
Islamabad is thus allowing China to bypass the Strait of Malacca- a narrow chokepoint that divides the Indian and Pacific Oceans. China is using Pakistan to gain direct access to the oil supplies from the Middle East and create an alternate trade route for Central Asian and European markets. Gwadar port allows China to escape all its adversaries that are located towards China’s Southern and Eastern expanses. This is how Pakistan is allowing China to avoid passing through the Indian Ocean Region, where countries like India and Australia can create blockades and play spoilsport.
Pakistani actions are hurting India because they militate with India’s territorial sovereignty insofar the Union Territories of Ladakh and Kashmir are concerned. But Islamabad’s actions of supporting China have global implications. All countries that oppose China’s salami-slicing tactics which denote growing expansionism in the South China Sea and the Himalayas are opposed to what Islamabad is upto. Because Pakistan is putting China’s adversaries in a spot of bother.
Pakistan doesn’t afford to have an independent foreign policy because it is deeply burdened with external debt, particularly the debt obligations towards China. Willingly or unwillingly, it is falling into the informal Chinese axis of countries like Turkey and Iran that Beijing is trying to create. This makes the Islamic Republic even more devious and detestable than it already is.
The US and the world are ignoring and side-lining Pakistan like never before. The message to Pakistan is loud and clear- stop siding with China or prepare to get obliterated from the global scene.