Six Reasons Why China Remains Wary of Imran Khan?
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has just completed what is seen by his government as a successful visit to all weather partner China, there is however scepticism of real gains made despite large number of interactions and Mr Khan’s participation in the China International Import Expo at Shanghai, China.
For one while before the visit Prime Minister Khan and the Finance Minister had claimed that China will support the country in one of the biggest balance of payments crisis faced recently, the Khan’s delegation returned empty handed.
However the political bombast was evident as Finance Minister Asad Umar said in a joint press briefing with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that the Balance of Payment crisis is over with China likely to provide $ 6 billion almost the same sum assured by Saudi Arabia. Umar said, “Our balance of payment (BoP) crisis is over as our gap on the external front of $12 billion has been filled. Saudi Arabia has already provided $6 billion and the remaining is under discussion with China,”
The fact however is that there are no concrete assurances and Secretary Finance Arif Ahmed Khan and Governor SBP Tariq Bajwa will be visiting China from November 9, 2018 to finalise the balance of payment package.
The News Pakistan reported that Pakistan has made a request for, “BoP support in the range of $3 billion on immediate basis, including $1.5 billion for deposit into the SBP and another $1.5 billion as grant. The loan on soft termsand conditions will be in the range of $2 to $3 billion, so the overall size of the package will be hovering around $6 billion”.
Umar also gave the impression that there was no support that was required from other resources implying the International Monetary Fund (IMF) however an IMF mission, led by chief Herald Finger is in Pakistan for two weeks to discuss the support required and conditionality based on a formal written request of Islamabad.
It is not surprising thus many commentators in Pakistan have openly questioned the Government’s assertion that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China was successful. Commenting in the Dawn under the byline, “Was Imran’s visit to China a failure? Yes. Here’s why?” Adnan Rasool has openly questioned the claims made by the government.
The fact of the matter is that China is wary of Mr Imran Khan and the PTI, here are the five reasons why?
1. Prime Minister’s Presumptions on China’s Economic Assistance.
In the run up to the visit Mr Khan seemed to indicate that the bail out package from China was assured, yet there were discordant voices from his cabinet colleagues on commitment to the flagship China Pakistan project China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Beijing was surely not enamoured by the presumptuous approach by a new government which has recently taken power and is questioning past agreements within days on taking office.
Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) and Imran Khan’s tentativeness towards the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as highlighted above is evident with talks of rejigging projects and agreements. Adnan Rasool points out that the PTI government has failed to appreciate that review of projects is a long process as the agreements are with the Chinese companies and not the government with the process involving long litigation, thus the popular rhetoric is unlikely to work
3. PTI’s Ostensible Religious Radical Base.
China would be wary of PTI’s religious radical support base which was evident with the mayhem post the Asia Bibi verdict by the Supreme Court. China faces the challenge of managing religious diversity in Xinjiang and would be wary of any influence permeating from the Deobandi or Barelvi groups from Pakistan.
4. Security of Chinese Companies and Personnel.
A related issue is the security of large number of Chinese companies and personnel ostensibly over 35,000 who are in Pakistan. Any harm to these is a red line and the ability of the state to control the radicals invading streets will be suspect in the eyes of Beijing.
5. Perception of Army Supported Prime Minister.
The perception of a weak Prime Minister who has come to power with the strong backing of the Army would be a major factor thus Beijing may rely more on engaging with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa rather than Imran Khan for substantive dialogue.
6. Potential Political Instability.
Finally Khan’s slim majority in parliament implies potential for political instability.
Thus despite the commitment to all weather partnership made in the joint statement by the two countries during the visit of Prime Minister Khan, China has not assured Imran a bailout package, one that he was hoping for.