China and Pakistan are included in the orbit of states friendly to Russia.

And if everything is clear with China under Xi Jinping - a strategic, almost "anti-American" partner, then with Pakistan everything is more complicated.

This country has been in cold relations with Russia for almost three decades, and only in recent years has the ice melted between Islamabad and Moscow.

The President of the Russian Federation met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, who became Prime Minister in 2018; Moscow has created a negotiated peacekeeping "troika" on Afghanistan, where, in addition to the Russian Federation, of course, the three most influential players in the Afghan process are identified: the United States, China and Pakistan; Russia is going to build a gas pipeline in Pakistan, which is an almost revolutionary breakthrough in Russian-Pakistani relations.

In general, it is worth writing a separate column about the establishment of Russian-Pakistani relations, but today - about the loudest political scandal that happened between two strategic partners - China and Pakistan, which threatens to change the balance of power in South Asia amid the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan (we all we know, of course, that Pakistan is one of the states most involved in the Afghan process, which became the birthplace of the Taliban movement back in the 1990s *).

On July 14, 2021, in Upper Kohistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan), a bus carrying Chinese civil engineers along with Pakistanis from security forces guarding them flew off a mountain road into a gorge and exploded.

  • Car bomb explosion in Quetta, Pakistan, April 2021

  • Reuters

  • © Naseer Ahmed

More precisely, there were two versions of the reasons for what happened: 1) a road wet after rain, an accident and an explosion - possibly of a gas cylinder inside;

2) an internal explosion, as a result of which the bus was thrown off the road into a ravine, which looked like an accident.

Things, you see, are different.

36 people in serious and moderate condition were hospitalized, 13 dead, nine of whom are citizens of the PRC.

The dead and wounded Chinese turned out to be engineers and builders of the China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC), which was building the Dasu Hydropower hydroelectric power station in northwestern Pakistan with an estimated cost of $ 4 billion.

China, a close ally and largest investor in Pakistan, is implementing the 50 billion Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC) project on its territory, which is part of China's famous geopolitical Belt and Road Initiative.

Islamabad first tackled the bus accident version.

She was immediately voiced by Asim Abbasi, Assistant Commissioner in Kohistan.

He said that the bus may have had a gas cylinder or some kind of explosives that are used by engineers in construction projects.

Even the Pakistani Foreign Ministry called the incident an accident caused by a mechanical breakdown, which immediately provoked a sharp reaction from Beijing, which demanded that Islamabad investigate the "explosion."

(Apparently, the surviving Chinese engineers quickly informed Beijing that it was an explosion in the bus, not a "fall due to a wet road").

The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan immediately issued a statement calling the incident an "attack."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian issued a statement that China was shocked and condemned the bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"We demanded that the Pakistani side investigate the incident, arrest and severely punish the attackers as soon as possible."

Soon, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan himself assured Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang that Islamabad would definitely investigate a "terrorist attack" that was directed against China.

Islamabad was forced to confirm: yes, traces of explosives were found at the site of the tragedy.

On July 18, 2021, a team of 15 Chinese investigators, accompanied by Pakistani colleagues, arrived at the scene of a bus explosion that killed 13 people (Reuters).

The Chinese investigation team spent at least four hours at the scene, Pakistani media reported.

From Islamabad, the Pakistani army, police and counterterrorism department joined the investigation.

And since this is the second major terrorist attack on the Chinese in Pakistan in recent months, Beijing has responded to the incident in an extremely painful and unusually tough manner.

1. The tenth meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) on CPEC has been postponed indefinitely.

This committee is the governing body of the CPEC, on the part of China it is headed by the leadership of the PRC, on the part of Pakistan - a member of the influential Pakistani "Bajwa clan" Asim Salim Bajwa.

In a tweet dated July 15, he wrote that "the meeting, which was to be held from July 16 to July 21, has been postponed."

This year, at the meeting, it was supposed to approve the financing mechanism for the construction of the Magistral-1 railway.

The postponed meeting says that the railway will not be built this year.

2. China has stopped work on the four-billion-dollar Dasu hydropower project (the same one that the Chinese engineers were traveling to).

On July 17, the Chinese company CGGC (China Gezhouba Group Company) announced that it would cease operations in Pakistan and most of its employees would be laid off.

In general, in the light of recent events, the very future of the CPEC project is in question.

(A sigh of relief can be heard here from many anti-Chinese forces in Pakistan itself, from politicians to Gwadar fishermen; in the White House and even in Tehran and Mashhad, which have their own alternative: the ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar instead of Gwadar, with which everything goes wrong for the Chinese ).

So China is full of rage.

The bus and the killing of nine Chinese citizens are the last straw in an overflowing vessel of Chinese politeness.

To understand why, it is enough to look at the chronology of the latest events in Pakistan, the protagonist of which in one way or another was made by China.

The big scandal happened on July 13, 2021, the day before the explosion with Chinese workers, near the very port of Gwadar, which should be (but has not yet become) the pearl of the CPEC.

On that day, Pakistani authorities, represented by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), detained five Chinese trawlers on suspicion of illegal fishing.

The trawlers were filled to capacity with fish and seafood.

“The fishermen are confident that the Chinese trawler caught fish off the coast of Gwadar and today they visit other Chinese trawlers to find out more.

We demand that this fish be auctioned off in Gwadar and not imported into China, ”Hudadad Wajoo, head of the Fisherfolk Alliance Gwadar, told The Guardian.

The history of the Pakistanis' war with Chinese trawlers began in 2020, and many of the world's media covered this process.

Its essence is simple: China is investing in CPEC and the Pakistani port of Gwadar as a transport and economic infrastructure project;

In 2017, Pakistan will hand over control of Gwadar to China's China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for a period of 40 years.

And since then, China has considered Pakistani waters and the fish in it as their own.

“Before the deal, we were told it would change our lives by providing employment and security,” said Akbar Rais, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been fishing for 50 years.

- My grandfather was a fisherman, my children are fishermen too.

The sea allows us to survive.

Chinese trawlers came here to deprive us of our livelihood. ”

The real scandal began when 20 huge deep-sea Chinese trawlers entered Pakistani waters in Sindh and Baluchistan in the first half of August 2020.

Previously, the Chinese tried so demonstratively not to anger the local poor.

Last year, the Nikkei Asian Review devoted a lot of material to the scandal, citing the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum that by 2020, fish stocks in coastal areas have decreased by more than 72% due to uncontrolled mass fishing.

“Fishing at sea is a livelihood for more than 2.2 million people in coastal provinces, and Chinese trawlers are robbing us of our livelihood. Deep-sea vessels have large fishing nets that not only catch a lot of fish, but also destroy the ecology of marine life. The fishermen of Gwadar have small boats - and they cannot go as deep into the sea as the Chinese. This is a careful catch that preserves the marine ecology and gives life to our people, ”the publication quotes Aslab Bhutani, a member of the Pakistani National Assembly representing Gwadar.

“China has built the world's largest fishing fleet with significant government subsidies. Faced with depletion of fish stocks in the seas around China, Beijing's giant trawlers are targeting new waters like the Arabian Sea off Pakistan's coast to satisfy the country's insatiable appetite for seafood, said Mohan Malik, professor of strategic studies at the UAE's National Defense College. "And developing countries have no way of saying no to China, even if it - the sea fishing fleet - is engaged in predation at the expense of workers and fishermen in their host countries."

Well, this, of course, is a very controversial statement, given that the arrest of five Chinese fishing trawlers happened exactly on the eve of the bus accident with Chinese citizens, forcing Beijing to temporarily curtail its Pakistani projects and reduce its presence on Pakistani land (and at sea).

This strategy of "squeezing out" China, obviously, also includes the attack on the Chinese ambassador on April 21, 2021, when a car bomb exploded near the Serena Hotel a few minutes before the ambassador's arrival (five people were killed, 12 were injured, the ambassador is alive and scared).

"Serena" is the only four-star hotel in the district, and therefore the Ambassador, together with the Consul General of China in the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan, Li Bijian, stayed there.

On that day, Ambassador Nong Rong met with the governor of the province, Jam Kamal Khan, and solemnly presented 1,700 food bags to the Pakistani poor at a food distribution ceremony.

It is in Quetta, the provincial capital, as well as in the port of Gwadar that China's ambitions are concentrated - its 50-billion-dollar CPEC project, part of Belt and Road.

Nong Rong was appointed ambassador in September 2020, right at the time of Pakistan's "escalation" with Saudi Arabia, when Islamabad decided to break off its traditional friendship with Riyadh and fall into Chinese embrace.

In less than a year, the new Chinese ambassador has developed an active commercial activity in Pakistan and in the aforementioned province.

So violent that the long-suffering Pakistani poor, surviving by fishing in their boats, staged a riot against the new wealthy Chinese masters.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion of the bus, but the Tehreek and Taliban Pakistan (TTP) organization claimed responsibility for the explosion of a car bomb outside the hotel where the Chinese ambassador was staying.

“The growing TTP threat will be a serious concern for China and its investments in Pakistan, especially in the port of Gwadar.

According to a UN report, the organization's forces range from 6,000 to 6,500 fighters, ”said Przemyslaw Lisisnski, an Afghanistan expert at the Warsaw Military Research Academy (Nikkei Asia).

NATO military analysts, who, together with the UN, have reports on the exact number of fighters of the little-known TPP, can probably find out who exactly is behind the organization striking against Chinese interests in the clan, strong with its intelligence and army, Pakistan.

One thing is clear: when the Chinese cross a certain red line with CPEC activity, unknown Pakistani groups stop them.

In May 2017, for example, from the very same Quetta - the capital of Pakistani Baluchistan - a Chinese couple was kidnapped by terrorists, who were later found killed in Mastung, a city in the same province.

This tragic incident put an end to the free movement of Chinese people in the province of interest, and since 2017 they have come there only with the Pakistani security forces.

The latest terrorist attack, which killed dozens of Chinese people and their Pakistani guards, demonstrates to Beijing that armed guards are not a guarantee of security.

The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, the Global Times, promised that "anti-government forces" in Pakistan targeting Chinese personnel and projects would incur the wrath of Beijing.

(What follows is the most interesting and instructive for those who like to stand up for "soft Chinese power", which respects the sovereignty of countries in which Beijing invests millions or billions).

“China will not only provide the necessary support and assistance if Pakistan's power is insufficient, but

will also deploy missiles and special forces that can directly participate in operations to eliminate threats against the Chinese in Pakistan

with

Pakistan

's consent.

We will show an example of a deterrent. "

(Global Times).

Translated from diplomatic (albeit full of rage) to human, this means the following: “Whoever is behind the attacks on us, we support you, and therefore, if necessary, we will deploy military forces on your own territory to protect our invested investments".

An attempt to break out of the strong Chinese embrace began on the eve of 2018, when Imran Khan and the most influential group of the Pakistani army behind him became prime minister.

Here is what Wajahat Khan, a staff writer for Nikkei, wrote about this in 2017, ahead of Imran Khan's election as prime minister.

On a flight from London to Islamabad in 2017, he interviewed Major General Asif Ghafoor, then the main representative of the Pakistani army, returning from the British capital, where he flew on a diplomatic mission that marked the beginning of the thaw between the United States and Pakistan.

Then Kamar Javed Bajwa, a native of Karachi, who, among other higher military educational institutions, the Canadian Army Command and Staff College, since 2016 - the chief of staff of the Pakistani army and Ghafoor spent a whole week in London to build bridges after the previous pro-Chinese government.

“We told the British, and through them the Americans, that we are very similar to them, and not to our friends in the East, - said Ghafoor, smoking a Marlboro Slim right on board the plane.

- We stressed that we have the same traditions, the same regiments - and even the same uniform with the British.

We have the same colonial history, the same past.

We are naturally oriented towards the West.

Please remember that we were together during the Cold War, and don't put us on a par with China.

Don't drive us into this camp. "

Since Joe Biden became president and moved to the White House, he has not had any contact with Pakistani Prime Minister Khan.

In May of this year, both Khan and Bajwa flew to Riyadh in order to build bridges of reconciliation with Washington through the "American mediator" in the Middle East, and surely the package of this reconciliation includes the "correct behavior" of Pakistan with Afghanistan and the Taliban according to the American scheme , and Islamabad's relationship with Beijing.

Both of these lines are "demarcation" for the United States.

Whether the recent events in Pakistan will serve to bring Islamabad closer to Washington or not is still unknown.

But aggravation with Beijing is guaranteed.

* "Taliban" - the organization was recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of February 14, 2003.

The point of view of the author may not coincide with the position of the editorial board.

Keywords: