Lawfare Book Review by Bruce Riedel of Andrew Small's new book The China-Pakistan Axis
Reviewed by Bruce Riedel
In December 2006, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Pakistani Army conducted their first-ever joint counterterrorism exercises — practicing intelligence collection and sharing, special forces tactics, and other military operations to enable them to jointly fight terrorism five years after 9/11. The Pakistanis hosted the exercise at their national military academy in Abbottabad, just north of the capital of Islamabad. The exercise was a political symbol as well as a military and counterterrorism event: it symbolized the “all weather” friendship of Islamic Pakistan and Communist China.
Meanwhile, just a half mile from the Kakul Military Academy, the most-wanted terrorist ever, Osama Bin Laden, was enjoying the new hideout he had moved into the year before. Bin Laden no doubt followed the procession of helicopters over his lair, as senior Pakistani and Chinese dignitaries flew from Islamabad to Abbottabad to attend the exercise and laud the Chinese-Pakistan entente. High value target number one was in Pakistan’s front yard as it discussed fighting terror with its closest ally.
Now we have an authoritative study of that pivotal entente. Andrew Small’s The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics is a concise and informative study of one of the world’s most important state-to-state relationships.
You could call them the odd couple. China and Pakistan have one of the closest yet least understood relationships in international diplomacy. On the surface they have little in common. China’s state is strong and its economy has been growing for decades. The Pakistani state, apart from the military, is weak and its economic performance has been disastrous. China is communist and religion is tightly controlled. Pakistan is Islamic and religious fervour is often out of control.