China has greater responsibility to balance ties in S Asia

Beijing: Against the backdrop of growing Indo-US ties and China`s burgeoning trade relations with India, Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has said Beijing has a "greater responsibility" to play a balancing role to bring about stability in South Asia.

"China is a country which is economically moving in the right direction. Therefore, China can play an extremely important role in building regional stability by balancing the forces," Gilani told China`s state-run CCTV when asked "how does Islamabad look at Chinese efforts to balance economic and trade relations with all major players in South Asia?"

Indirectly referring to the Indo-US accord on civil nuclear cooperation, he said "some of the agreements made with the US really concern Pakistan because we need stability in the region and if there is no parity between the two countries naturally there would be no stability in the region."

Therefore, there is a "greater responsibility on China to balance the relations" to bring about regional stability, he said, skirting a direct reference to the burgeoning India-China trade which crossed USD 60 billion last year.

His comments came against the backdrop of write-ups by Chinese official think tanks which stated that China does not pursue a policy of "strategic equilibrium" in South Asia as different factors guided Beijing`s relations with New Delhi and Islamabad.

Gilani said Pakistan wants close relations with all neighbours, including India, and no country in the region should be threatened by close strategic relations between China and Pakistan.

Besides Gilani`s interview, the CCTV telecast a series of special reports about the "deteriorating" internal situation in Pakistan in the aftermath of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his extremist bodyguard for his opposition to the country`s controversial blasphemy law.

"Since strengthening its ties with the US after September 11th terror attacks in 2001, Pakistan`s security situation seems to have worsened. The recent assassination of the Governor of Punjab Province underlines the sectarian and religious extremism prevalent in parts of the country," the TV report said.

"The country has now become a breeding ground for the extremists and insurgents it means to fight. Over the past four years, more than 5,000 people have been killed in violent attacks, making the nation one of the most dangerous places in the region," it said.

"Shockingly, a substantial number of people actually seemed to welcome the assassination (of Taseer)," it said featuring some of the Pakistanis justifying the killing of the outspoken Governor, while some moderate Muslims in Lahore condemning it saying there was no justification to murder in the name of Islam.

Answering questions about incidents of terrorism, Gilani said in his interview that Pakistan faced two kinds of threats.

"One is terrorism and extremism. We (his government) inherited this position as front line state against extremism and terrorism. The second is law and order and economy. Both are inter-related," he said and listed various campaigns by Pakistani army against militant outfits in Swat and other tribal areas.

He said Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan should work on a common strategy to fight terrorism and extremism.

"One thing I assure you, Pakistan is part of the solution and not part of problem," he said.

The CCTV report also featured steady expansion of the Pakistani print and television media which is becoming a major player in the evolution of internal democracy in Pakistan.