Pakistan embarks on a path to forming a united front with China, Russia and Turkey in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled Afghan strategy.
Earlier this week, Islamabad announced plans for Pakistani Foreign Minister to travel to Beijing, Moscow and Ankara to hold Pakistan-China-Russia plus Turkey talks on resolving the unending war in Afghanistan.
Even though the Foreign Ministry stopped short of revealing the details of Khawaja Muhammad Asif’s visit to the three nations whose positions on the Afghan war are in accord, experts argue the Pakistani FM’s tour around key Eurasian nations is a direct response to Trump’s Afghan strategy.
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Three weeks ago, U.S. President unveiled his new formula to resolving America’s longest war in history, criticizing Pakistan for providing “safe havens” to terrorist elements and warning it had “much to lose” by continuing to harbor terrorists.
What will China and Pakistan discuss on Friday?
Speaking to ValueWalk on condition of anonymity, a Chinese diplomat revealed the details of Pakistan Foreign Minister’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, September 8.
“There’s a press conference by the two ministers around 2pm local time (2am EST time),” the diplomat said, adding that a welcoming lunch and a meeting between Mr. Asif and China’s state counselor are also scheduled as part of Pakistani FM’s visit. Besides talking about bilateral China-Pakistan relations, the diplomat said Pakistan Foreign Minister is coming to discuss Afghanistan, U.S. and India.
Pakistan’s immediate response to Trump’s Afghan strategy
Trump’s Afghan strategy drew fury in Pakistan. Islamabad slammed its once biggest ally for not acknowledging Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terror, which claimed the lives of nearly 22,000 Pakistani civilians and over 6,800 Pakistani soldiers. In addition to the massive loss of life and mass displacement, Islamabad’s war on terror also resulted in tremendous economic losses amounting to $118 billion.
Experts warned the U.S., which has spent over $1 trillion on the Afghan war in 16 years, that attempts to strong-arm Pakistan would push it deeper into the arms of Russia and China, its “all-weather ally.” In fact, both Moscow and Beijing were quick to react to Trump’s harsh remarks about Islamabad, defending their ally in the latest round of U.S.-Pakistan tensions.
Pakistan-China-Russia and Turkey forming a united front
In addition to engaging its partners on the Afghan issue – China and Russia – Pakistan is also bringing Turkey onboard to apparently form a multipolar response to America’s recently announced Afghan strategy, which unveiled plans to deploy nearly 4,000 troops to the war-torn nation.
Mr. Asif’s visit to China, Russia and Turkey, whose views on the Afghan crisis converge with those of Pakistan, is expected to bring the four nations together on the deadly conflict and achieve peace and stability in the region through diplomacy. In fact, all of the four nations already enjoy close diplomatic, economic and military ties with one another, which lays out the groundwork for a coherent strategy to challenge America’s renewed military efforts in Afghanistan.
Speaking to ValueWalk in a personal capacity, Moscow-based political analyst Andrew Korybko said the U.S. may “expectedly try to sow discord” between Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey through “information warfare” means. “The US wants to avoid the strategic convergence of these four Great Powers in general, especially as it relates to Afghanistan,” Mr. Korybko explained.
However, the analyst insists that it doesn’t mean Washington will succeed in its attempts to slow down the Russian-Pakistani rapprochement, which has been consistent since Russia lifted embargo on arms sales to Pakistan and has been establishing closer ties with the South Asian nation since then.
While Mr. Korybko argues that U.S. attempts to put Islamabad and Moscow at odds may include reminding of the 1980s Afghan War and trying to prove a link between Russia and the Taliban, “more than likely, however, none of this will be sufficient in stopping the imminent quadrilateral coordination and cooperation between these four Great Powers over Afghanistan.”
Are Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey preparing a military solution to Afghan war?
When asked if it’s possible to expect Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey to join their military forces to resolve the Afghan crisis, the analyst said the four “leading Eurasian states will likely limit their actions to the diplomatic sphere.”
“None of them wants to get embroiled in fighting a proxy war with the US, but their political support could still have a powerful impact in giving a much-needed boost to the stillborn Afghan peace process by rejuvenating it through the Moscow Format,” Mr. Korybko explained.
While the agenda of the discussions has not been immediately disclosed to the media, forming a united front between Pakistan-China-Russia and Turkey on the Afghan issue is expected to not only become a game-changer strategy to achieving peace in the war-torn nation, but also help “revolutionize” Eurasian geopolitics as a whole, says Mr. Korybko.
Turkey could join China- and Russia-led bloc ‘in the near future’
Turkey’s role has taken the center stage in Russia-China-Pakistan talks on resolving the Afghan crisis, as the country of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has made a U-turn in its foreign policy plans lately. After decades of seeking membership in the European Union, Ankara is becoming increasingly interested in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a China- and Russia-led Eurasian political, economic, and security organization.
In fact, Mr. Korybko believes that “multilateral and trusted cooperation” between Russia-China-Pakistan and Turkey would bring Ankara closer to joining the SCO “in the near future.” Pakistani Foreign Minister’s upcoming visit to Turkey comes as the EU is considering to suspend or end membership talks with Turkey.
As an alternative to its membership in the EU, Ankara is expected to embrace its budding partnership with Russia, China and Pakistan. In a reciprocal manner, Moscow has stepped up efforts to finalize the deal with Ankara regarding the purchase of the S-400 air defense system in September.
Will Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey form a bloc?
Although the U.S. seems unwilling to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror in the region, Islamabad has been at the forefront of the regional fight against terrorist groups on its soil and is oftentimes called the key to resolving the Afghan crisis.
Despite the complicated relations between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan remains one of Afghanistan’s biggest trade partners, importing nearly $400 million worth of Afghan goods in 2015 alone.
Turkey has been a vital player in regional efforts to put an end to the Afghan crisis as well. In addition to Turkey’s defense contributions to Afghanistan to eliminate terrorist groups from its soil, the country of President Erdogan has also engaged in development projects across the nation, participating in 850 development projects since 2004.
Turkey’s participation in the SCO would allow Pakistan-China-Russia and Turkey to form a “bloc within a bloc for strengthening regional integration processes and reforming the global economic and financial systems,” said Mr. Korybko.