Samson Simon Sharaf The visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao to the US will not live in memory for the declarations that were made in the joint press conferences and the press releases. They are more significant in what has not been said. In the backdrop are diplomatic flurry, pre-visit co-ordinations and concessions from either side. In this calculus of mutual diplomatic conceding, inasmuch as China did not mention Kashmir, AfPak and India, the US in quid pro quo refrained from mentioning Pakistans growing nuclear cooperation with China, WOT and the much-trumpeted Long War. Though irritants, suspicions and differences were not highlighted publicly, they nonetheless formed the perspective in which this diplomacy was framed. Cognisant of the upcoming elections in USA and the support that Barack Obama needs from the right, State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley was quick to assert that theres no change in the US policy. On a question, that references to irritants and suspicions were dropped as a policy to appease India, he evaded the issue and responded: I think its a manifestation of the nature of our discussions herethat we have ongoing with China. But, no, I wouldnt read anything else into it. This sums up the exploratory and confidence building nature of this high profile visit to the US. In the light of the constraints faced by President Obama and the State Department in addressing issues that in fact destabilise South Asia, Afghanistan and the surrounding regions, rhetoric was low key. Following the Democrat traditions of resolving issues diplomatically, this establishment is handicapped by a somewhat lame duck President, Pentagon that calls all the shots on strategic and security issues and the desire to co-opt India for its long-term objectives in Central and South Asia. In contrast, though the Chinese President too faces his elections, he appears to be fully backed in his diplomacy and can go back and claim that he has made significant economic and diplomatic success. He also spared America the diplomatic spar by not mentioning that China had already begun reducing its exports to the US, that the US was causing international financial destabilisation by printing out dollars and its human rights record in Guantanamo Bay and rendition centres. More so, at the heels of the aggressive diplomatic visit by Vice President Biden and Mullens mantra to do more, it was also for the first time that Pakistan was not in the headlines as a punching bag for the US failures in Afghanistan. Though India feels happy at its diplomatic clout and staying on the right side of State Department diplomacy, no mention of Pakistan caused much dismay in its thinking circles. Economically, in the face of a $275 billion trade deficit, conceding export deals to a tune of $45 billion is not significant. In addition, China also agreed to give the US contractors proximately $88 billion contracts and an order for 200 Boeing aircrafts worth $19 billion creating jobs for a starved US workforce. In return, China will get access to the lucrative US locomotive market and joint manufacturing facilities with General Electric (GE) that in a few years will help the Chinese locomotive industries to elbow out GE just as it has done with the German, French and Japanese locomotive manufacturers in the past. But the irritants remain. China is the direct recipient of the US Long Arm-Long War Strategy. Both eastward expansion of NATO and the bases in Afghanistan affect it directly. China realises that the US is unhappy about Chinese presence in Pakistan and Balochistan. It also knows that the Baloch separatist movements that are particularly anti-Chinese have sponsors with US blessings. Then there are issues of US arms sales to Taiwan, Dalai Lama, Kashmir, India and support to Pakistan. The fact that this visit avoided such real issues reflects multiple connotations. First, the Chinese have displayed remarkable cognisance and insight of the constraints faced by the Democrat administration. They have provided the US administration with enough economic concessions to carry to their vote banks in the next presidential elections and return with the peoples verdict. Then the road to economic engagements will be more promising and may lead to a matrix whence economic compulsions will overshadow military concerns. Second, the Chinese see the Democrats far better diplomatic partners than the Republicans, who represent the right, are militarily adventurous and more aligned to the Pentagon. Hence, the Chinese have decided to bet on them for peace in the region. Third, this also raises a question whether China has managed to avert an extraordinary escalation in AfPak at the heels of the Bidens visit and Petraeus Plan. If it has, then roads to a diplomatic and negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue will be wide open. Fourth, it brings back North Korea to the negotiating table. This also impacts Chinese bilateralism with Japan and South Korea, crucial to Chinas economic progress. In case the Chinese achieve these objectives, then the regions around Pakistan are likely to see a graduated de-escalation, return of diplomacy as an instrument to negotiate peace and improved Pak-Afghan relations. This would also open doors to India and Pakistan to resume peace diplomacy, and boost trust and confidence building measures across the entire spectrum of irritants, particularly along the Line of Control. Peace along the divided frontier of Kashmir will give a much-needed respite to the people of the region, permit them to interact, carry out mutual trade and reduce force levels pending the resolution of the question under UN auspices. The success will also provide room for Pakistan to concentrate more on its domestic issues, challenge the forces of intolerance, and give breathing space to the armed forces to play a pro-active role in national development in the post-conflict, post-earthquake and post-flood scenario. Readers may be surprised at my assertion, but it is a fact that the Pakistani system lacks the wherewithal to absorb and deliver on the significant aid flowing into Pakistan. It is time that as in the 50s and 60s, the armed forces play their role in national development, as the most viable and constitutional instrument to absorb and deliver these projects, rather than the shady NGO mafias aligned with the corrupt officials and politicians of the government. There are prospects of peoples revolution for Pakistan following the recent Tunisian example. If that happens, then the forces of intolerance will unleash themselves against the entire system. The government must realise that far too much time has been lost to political tantrums and it is time they deliver honestly. The only democratic options are to either perform or call for immediate elections. The slide and rot must be stopped and arrested. The writer is a retired brigadier and a political economist. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com