After a hiatus of 7 years, Pakistan is reviving its tradition of holding a military parade on the 23rd of March. Amidst an ongoing fight against militancy, which has spawned a series of high-profile reprisals, the move is a bold and dangerous one. It has an added dimension since it is reported that the Chinese President may attend as the chief guest – the parallels with Obama’s presence at the Indian Republic Day parade are hard to ignore.

Obama’s decision to court Modi has irked the government, and it is making little effort to hide its reply. This tit for tat display, coupled with whatever agreement Xi Jinping’s visit produces, will strengthen the Pakistan-China relationship and assuage concerns regarding the US and India. Pakistan is drawing clear lines regarding its foreign policy, but is this helpful? Trying to develop a Pak-China axis to contend with a US-India one, will only aggravate tensions and make confrontation more likely, especially for the smaller nations in such block conflict; as the cold war aptly demonstrates. Maintaining links across such a divide is key to avoiding conflicts, and so despite its rivalry with India, China maintains trade with India worth 70 billion and plans to invest more. While Pakistan will get bilateral benefits, using such aggressive icons is detrimental.

Another issue is that militants have mainly targeted military and sectarian targets in recent months; the former, as retribution for the military operation, the latter as a continuation of previous activity. The parade will showcase the combined prowess of the army, navy and the air force, along with Xi Jinping, and will be attended by most of the military’s high command and top government officials. If we are dealing in symbolism, the parade will be a defiant show of strength, affirming the resolve to fight and galvanise the population. Yet it a also a prime target for terrorists. Even if it maintains security at the parade, an attack on a perimeter outpost can severely damage proceedings. Is it wise to undertake such a risk?