China not comfortable with new Pak prez

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8 Sep 2008, 2007 hrs IST, Saibal Dasgupta,TNN

BEIJING: China has signalled that it is not comfortable with the change of guard in Pakistan, which it has repeatedly described as a "all-weather friend for the past four decades".

The People's Daily , which is the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, has said that the new Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, is facing severe domestic and diplomatic challenges that including keeping up Pakistan's relationship with the United States.

But surprisingly, the paper did not mention China's close relationship with Pakistan nor did it refer to the problems it is facing concerning its relationship with India. Even the latest decision on India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group has not been mentioned in the despatch sent by the People's Daily correspondent in Islamabad.

The "current security situation in Pakistan brooks no optimism. Armed militants, extremists and terrorists have been exceedingly active with the occurrence of widespread bombings, attempted assassinations, kidnappings and terrorists attacks in big cities," it said.

"For the United States, the engagement (with Pakistan) in the war on terror is a crucial, important yardstick or the criterion of testing an ally. Then, whether PPP, which has long been cited for its pro-United States stance, is able to go on winning the American support and trust, hinges, to a very great extent, on Pakistan's military cooperation in battling against terrorism when Zardari is at the actual helm of state power," it said.

It said Zardari is confronted with a range of tough, thorny issues such as those relating to the war on terror, Pakistan's relations with the US, the development of national economy and improvement of people's livelihoods. Former Pak president Pervez Musharraf was a "firm and staunch US ally in combating terrorism, (who) had all along obtained a powerful assistance and backing from the U.S”.

China was very comfortable in its dealings with Musharraf, who visited Beijing several times. It is now trying to find a new role in its relationship with the new leaders in Pakistan. But Beijing leaders were among the first to congratulate Zardari on his election.

"As a "frontline state" in the war against terrorism, Pakistan has played an indispensable role in the global war on terror since it is an ally of the United States in the war," it pointed out.