Chinese President Xi Jinping visit to the USA would not concern Pakistan, but it is more than likely that it will be closely watched by Islamabad because it not only represents a renewal of an old understanding, but also a go-ahead for a new drive into the world. And it is not just because Islamabad is paying this visit special attention that New Delhi will do so: it has its own reasons to pay attention to this visit. This should not preclude the attention being paid in Kabul, and because of this in Moscow.

The interrelationships are deep and inescapable. The relationship between China and the USA goes back to the Cold War, when both countries broke the mould when US President Richard Nixon visited China in February 1972. It must not be forgotten that the main preparatory step was when Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, visited China a year earlier, under the cover of illness on a trip to Pakistan. China had long tried to establish a separate bloc in the Communist world, because it never accepted the dominance of the USSR. Pakistan reached perhaps the peak of its role, as the friend of both China and the USA. Pakistan had befriended China in the 1960s, after its own 1962 war with India, and before its own war in 1965 with India. China had moved on since then, becoming the world’s second largest economy behind the USA, all the while adopting capitalist methods economically, while retaining the tight control of the Communist Party. One result has been that the Communist Party of China has survived the 1991 collapse of communism much better than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which has not only disintegrated, but lost power.

Pakistan thus has a kind of fixer’s interest in the meeting. It also needs to guess how far it can go in its overtures to Russia. Russia is still an important ally of India, but India has moved away from Russia after the collapse of the USSR, and has not just cozied up to the USA, but it has also witnessed some warmth in its relations with China, to the extent that Xi has not just visited India, but has also hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One of China’s main concerns is Afghanistan, and more specifically the US presence there. However, the US presence is no longer the overarching concern it once was, not after the USA gave China a role in the Afghan negotiations. That role creates ferment in all the other capitals involved, because it might serve as a means of ejecting India from its position there. Such an ejection would be welcomed by Islamabad, though it would cause some regret in Moscow. Moscow itself has its own stakes. As a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it is closely interested in the War on Terror, and as it has its own problem with the USA over Crimea, it would like to see whether the USA will enlist Chinese support over Crimea. Another point of interest is that Xi’s first visit abroad after becoming President in 2013 was to Russia. Europe he apparently left to Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who toured there last year.

Though the Kabul regime has no interest in Crimea, unless it causes a World War, it would be very interested in how the USA dealt with it while talking to China. At the same time, apart from its owing itself to the USA, it would also be interested in how its immediate neighbourhood is being affected.

While Xi was in the USA, one major development which all will be watching would be the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will give it access to the Indian Ocean, and allow it to move across the Himalayas for the first time ever. Apart from its historical implications, which are immense, it also has great economic implications.

Already, China is not exactly back to its position as the largest economy in the world, though it should be remembered that when last it held that position, the New World had not come into play. Because the largest economy is by far and away the USA’s, China is merely again the largest economy of the Old World. However, it is only a matter of time before China grows enough to overtake the USA. Pakistan is looking to the crumbs from its table, in the shape of the $45 billion it is supposed to invest in the CPEC.

It should not look merely at the money, but also the fact that China will not just be across the Himalayas, but also is viewed by Pakistan as an effective counter to India. However, it should also be remembered that China is more interested in the access that it will get to Middle Eastern hydrocarbons, including oil from Iran. Pakistan may find that it will have given up one kind of subjection only to exchange it for another. One of the major problems that Pakistan has with India is cultural. However, while Pakistan shares a cultural heritage with India, it will find it even more galling to accept Chinese cultural superiority. However, Pakistan is necessary to this mosaic as well, because India is not just to be surrounded economically, but also by such cultural and political satellites as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Pakistan is supposed to fit this pattern.

Xi’s visit to the USA also coincides with the UN General Assembly, where he is leading the fight to prevent India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. It is worth noting that China is the only non-white permanent member, and India would end this distinction if it was allowed permanent membership. It is no coincidence that China and Pakistan have made common cause, and are using India’s intransigence over Kashmir, on the same issue. One Chinese argument against Indian membership, like Pakistan’s, is that a member which does not obey Security Council resolutions should not be made a permanent member. It should not be forgotten that China is a party to the Kashmir dispute, because it has a border dispute with Kashmir. Until the dispute is settled, that border cannot be settled. A settlement has been achieved with Pakistan, and territory under Pakistani control, but to be ceded to China, has been handed over. However, there are still problems with India, and the 1962 war was over the boundary. The problems created by these Himalayan snowy wastes date back to Raj-era disputes between Raj officials and the Ming court. Indeed, the creation of Kashmir State by the British is seen as a move to settle the frontier with China.

Things have reached the stage where Chinese Presidents visit the USA officially. Pakistani leaders who engaged with China back in the Ayub era, even though they were so strongly pro-US, could not have foreseen what changes would take place globally, but seem vindicated by history. However, if Pakistanis worried by the USA’s veering towards India, look approvingly on China’s rise they should think about what might happen if China became closer to India.