The zebra cannot change its stripes and so can’t Pakistan but its love stories with different species are well known. Pakistan loves sitting in the lap of the Chinese dragon even as it is exporting donkeys to China and China exports pork to Pakistan in the garb of beef. The zebra loves supping on Kabsa leftovers from Saudi restaurants and has begun to relish Russian oil lately. Why the US and UK love the zebra is because Pakistan proliferates terrorism exponentially and has the third largest population of donkeys in the world – which matches western genes and designs. Recall Ted Gunderson, former FBI Station Chief of Los Angeles, saying, “Most terror attacks are committed by our CIA and FBI.” So Pakistan must be propped up as a  bulwark against India.

There has been commotion in the media with Pakistani journalists Hamid Mir and Naseem Zehra saying that Pakistan lacked the ammunition and economic strength to fight against India according to former Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. But there is nothing new about this disclosure. This is the reason Pakistan took recourse to terrorism; the “thousand cuts” policy while wagging its nuclear tail in the background. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Indian forces had captured Dograi in the first sweep and established a bridgehead across the Ichogil Canal, reaching Batapore on the outskirts of Lahore. Had India continued the war, Pakistan was left with just seven days of ammunition – that too not in all categories.

But Pakistan’s DG ISPR, Ahmed Sharif, denies the above claims about the Pakistan army’s ‘operational preparedness’, threatening to take the ‘battle to India’s territory’ if the situation arises. What else can the poor fellow do if he is to save himself from being sacked? Sharif claims that the 2019 car bombing in Pulwama in J&K was a false flag operation by India and that Operation ‘Bandar’ (not Op Donkey or Zebra) under which Pakistan Air Force launched air strikes in India in retaliation to Indian air strikes at Balakot, showed Pakistan’s resilience and resolve of its Air Force. Sharif also keeps dancing to the Pakistani army’s song that Kashmir belongs to Pakistan.

Traditionally, the uniformed zebras of Pakistan (read the military) have been visiting Beijing for paying obeisance to the dragon and receive lessons in warfighting including in the ‘unrestricted warfare’ category, while Pakistani politicians are relegated to carrying the begging bowl to China and perform theatrics to impress upon the amused Chinese that without the dragon’s “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, and sweeter than honey” support, Pakistan will be sunk and the zebra would  mutate into a donkey – they wouldn’t say into a cockroach lest the Chinese start drooling.

Go back to the early 1960’s when a Pakistani military delegation was in Beijing. Addressing them, Zhou en-Lai raised his clenched fist and said, “This is capable of delivering a forceful blow, but if you cut off one finger, the fist loses its power, not by one-fifth, but by fifty percent. If you wipe out a couple of hundred thousand of the enemy spread over a long front, its impact is not as great as wiping out an entire battalion or a brigade – the enemy’s morale is dealt a devastating blow. We know this from practical experience.” Later visiting Pakistan, he advised Ayub Khan to employ terrorism against India. Pakistani historian FS Aijazuddin wrote in his book ‘From a Head, through a Head, to Head – the Secret Channel between US and China through Pakistan’ published in 2000. “Chou-en-Lai suggested to Ayub Khan that Pakistan should prepare for prolonged conflict with India instead of short-term wars. He advised Pakistan to raise a militia force (read terrorists) to act behind enemy (India) lines”.

So while Chinese President Xi Jinping was engaged in telephonic conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 26, 2023, Pakistan’s top zebra (army chief Asim Munir) was paying obeisance to General Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) at the dragon’s lair in Beijing as part of his four-day visit. 

According to Chinese media, Youxia said that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and iron-clad friends, stressing that no matter how the international situation changes, China always puts Pakistan as a priority in its neighbourhood diplomacy and firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, territorial integrity, development interests and national dignity. He added that China is willing to build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era. Munir on his part parroted the anthem “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, and sweeter than honey”

The media has quoted unnamed military sources to say that Youxia “again” raised the demand of setting up military outposts in Pakistan to protect Beijing’s investments in the conflict-prone Pakistan-Afghanistan region as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Munir assured Youxia on the security of Chinese nationals, projects and investments in Pakistan. For the military outposts in Pakistan, both sides will form a joint military command in the future, according to the sources.

Munir also met his PLA counterpart Li Qiaoming. According to a press release issued by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Islamabad, “Matters of mutual security interests and military cooperation were discussed. Both military commanders reiterated the need for maintaining peace and stability in the region and enhancing military-to-military cooperation.”

The zebra is faced with the dilemma of whether to permit Chinese outposts on Pakistani soil or not. It is no secret that PLA contingents have been present in Pakistan since long to assist guarding the BRI and BRI-related projects, as also in Gwadar port – all operating in civil attire.  But China has been looking to officially establish Chinese outposts in Pakistan, especially along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with plans to extend the BRI into Afghanistan and beyond.

Pakistani officers are already posted in PLA establishments; in China’s Western Theatre Command and Southern Theatre Command. However, permitting Chinese outposts in Pakistan would not be to the liking of the West – same way as China would not want a US base (s) in Pakistan. Hence, the decision to form joint China-Pakistan military commands in the future.  Incidentally, the zebra historically has resorted to lynching and killings of individuals even ‘suspected’ of blasphemy. But dragon’s boy Tian accused of blasphemy was out of jail pronto after Li Qiang gave a telephonic bamboo to Shehbaz Sharif. Zebra says Tian moved to ‘undisclosed’ location – to be escorted to Beijing?

Finally, the US would like an India-China war, with Pakistan siding with China, in order to distract China from Taiwan. Therefore, instability in Pakistan suits the West. The US has said it is concerned about the debt that Pakistan owes to China and other countries, while Elizabeth Horst, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the US Department of State, visiting Pakistan said, “Pakistan has a lot of investment potential in various sectors of the economy while robust policies can help attract local and foreign investment in the country, ensuring sustainable development.”

With its history of double-gaming, the zebra can be expected to run the errands of Uncle Sam while sitting in the dragon’s lap; perhaps to some extent if not fully like Zelensky to whom Pakistan continues to supply artillery ammunition as ordered by the West. The areas to watch will be whether the killing of more Chinese nationals in Pakistan would be engineered and how an India-China war will be orchestrated.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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