The Axis of Autocrats. China & Saudi; Pakistan’s evergreen friends

The recent news that Imran Khan has been able to prise 6bn USD in aid from a distressed Saudi Arabia reflects many things:

(1.) the Axis is going to be Saudi-Pak-China with Pakistan emerging as a sort of lynchpin. As with any Great Power in decline the US is going to try and throw its weight around.

(2.) while Trump is an astonishingly effective orator; his latest tweet on the bombing scare scandal at once rouses his base and inflames his enemies, it’s hard to see how he can effectively project American influence.

(3.) 9-11 is probably the most successful attack on the US not because of the actual attack but because of the botched response. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have delegitimised American foreign policy (to some extent) and also show the American reluctance to project troops abroad.

(4.) How does all of this relate to modern South Asia? Well the US-Pakistan relationship simply isn’t what it once was since the US doesn’t have as much use for Pakistan. As a power in general retreat from Asia, the US conceivably has much more in common (and points of vexation especially in relation to H1B1) with India than Pakistan.

(5.) Saudi Arabia and China are counter-cultural power; one espouses hereditary monarchy and the other communism with Confucian characteristics. Like Pakistan they are fundamentally “out of sorts” with the modern world and the ongoing cult (?) of liberal democracies.

(6.) This “Axis of Autocracy” may individually have competing interests (Saudi will ALWAYS maintain a strong relationship with the US, the China has some interest in Iran) but Pakistan binds them as the weakest member (sort of the Italy in the WW2 Axis).

(7.) Pakistan is the most likely stumble from crisis to crisis and especially in the latest “begging bowl incident” Imran was spurned away from both Saudi & China to go to the IMF. Khashoggi’s murder was serendipitous for Pakistan (are we sure it’s not an ISI false flag) as an isolated and under attack Saudi had to immediately shore up its alliance.

(8.) with the renewed impetus from a successful negotiation Imran can now play his hand against the Chinese. Though Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda is destructive (more Habsburg than Prussia); survival can focus the mind.

(9.) The only real way this Axis would be shattered if the “people” rose up and all three nations seem to have inoculated their citizens from the Western winds of liberal democracy. In some ways the Sabrimala Temple incident shows that Modern India is more an enemy of traditional Hinduism than anyone else.

19 thoughts on “The Axis of Autocrats. China & Saudi; Pakistan’s evergreen friends”

  1. I want to know what Pakistan has to do in order to get this money from Saudi and China. Neither country gives money out of the goodness of their hearts.

    I don’t think Sabrimala shows that India is an “enemy of Hinduism”. The Indian Supreme Court is interpreting people’s rights in accordance with the constitution. Not letting women into the temple is discrimination against them. I would make the same argument about mosques by the way. A debate can be had about whether the state should have the right to tell religious bodies what to do, but it seems that the Indian Supreme Court has that right.

  2. One wonders if Saudi will still be as significant in a few decade’s time once the dependency on oil comes down? (Go Elon!)

    It barely has 4 crore people and no significant technological or military capability.

    1. Pakistan is in a very bad situation where it has to run around and look for new masters. Once, it was the US, now it is China. When you are dependent on bailouts, you have to do what the party with the money wants. Not good for a country’s sovereignty.

      We already do what Saudi wants. Our nukes are their nukes. Our ex- Army Chief works for them now. In return, they bail out our politicians when they get in trouble with the military.

      1. It would be interesting as to how much long rope would China really give. My pakistani friends feel now China is so much invested, it doesn’t really have anywhere to go. So that would be interesting. Whatever the US and Pakistan or Pakistan and Saudi say about each other, there deals did work out for both parties even though probably not to the extent either of them wanted. I dont see either Pak/China have requisite leverage over each other so lets c who blinks first

        1. China is the one with the money so it is the one who will call the shots. They may need the access to Gwadar but Pakistan needs China more. That’s why Pakistan doesn’t say a word about the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.

          The relationship with Saudi has not been particularly good for Pakistan. Saudi gets to spread their puritanical form of Islam in our country. Not sure what we get out of it, except the periodic bailouts. Picking sides in the Saudi-Iran proxy war was not a good strategic decision for Pakistan.

          1. ..But they still gave money right? Same with USA.

            On China i dont know what economic sense Gwadar really makes. Only thing is if some other countries join in. But Pakistan is surrounded by countries who are either unable (Iran,Afghanistan) or unwilling (India,Emirates Inc) to invest in CPEC. The only value i feel is its strategic sense of having a port in the gulf for China. But even there as soon as its militarized rather than India, it will be USA which will cry havoc over it, considering they are the biggest power in the gulf sea lanes.

            I think CPEC has more to internally in Punjab and Sindh(Power projects, Agriculture, Infra etc) rather than Gwadar. Chinese want money which they have been guaranteed from those power projects and Pakistan gets some Infrastructure in return.

          2. CPEC is only a small part of China’s whole “One Belt One Road” scheme. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t see it in their economic and strategic interest.

            Pakistan’s problem is that it is always looking for new benefactors. China is just the latest one.

          3. China is a very old friend; our oldest in fact. It’s only the US that has “departed” from Pakistan’s close circle of allies.

            Pakistan plays a much more deft diplomatic game than India; brings to mind the story of the Hare & the Hound..

          4. Pakistan plays a much more deft diplomatic game

            True. Pakistan has had an overriding compulsion as to how to manipulate external relations for the benefit of it’s elite; in that game they have come on top so far; the welfare of the people has not been on their agenda.

          5. Pakistan plays a much more deft diplomatic game

            True. Pakistan has had an overriding compulsion as to how to manipulate external relations for the benefit of it’s elite; in that game they have come on top so far; the welfare of the people has not been on their agenda.

        1. Why do u say that. In the age of media u need to be seen to be doing something rather than really do something. It’s same in India and USA. Honestly no one in today’s age has really the potlical capital to affect structural changes to economic issues etc. not Imran , modi or trump. so they tinker around the edges ,armed with favorable statistics and present it as some sort of big deal. It’s fine. It’s the age of showmanship

  3. The whole Atif Mian thing was a fiasco. Now there is the IMF bailout. He promised to be the great saviour (and those that voted for him thought that he would be) but it is clear that he has very little clue what he is doing.

      1. “He’s basically sold out to the Army”

        Is it really a bad thing? If nothing that at least the dejure and the defacto rulers of the country becomes one, which is how other countries like when they deal with Pakistan

        1. Yes, it’s a bad thing. The Army is supposed to report to the political government and not the other way around. Every time a Pakistani politician asserts civilian supremacy, they are unceremoniously removed from power. Even IK’s voters didn’t intend to put an Army puppet in place. Those of us who didn’t want him to get elected were pretty clear that he had no other ambition than to occupy the Prime Minister’s office.

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