JHELUM, Pakistan — The Pakistani and Chinese attack choppers swoop low across the valley, strafing a mock terrorist hideout and a bomb-making factory. Then a joint commando team storms the camp — to the gentle applause of top brass from both nations watching from the stands.
The fact that such a drill is needed reflects a new concern troubling their long-standing alliance: Chinese militants along the Afghan border allegedly aiding separatism in China and plotting terrorist attacks there
Countries around the world, especially the U.S., share Chinese concerns about Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal regions, but few get the same kind of public commitment of help as Beijing. It’s a legacy of China’s oft-hailed “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan.
Anti-terror cooperation is the latest example of the special relationship between the neighboring countries.
China’s good will is vital to Pakistan: China is its largest defense supplier, and it has helped construct two nuclear reactors. Chinese investments help keep the Pakistani economy afloat.
Chinese economic interests are also threatened because militants have made parts of the country no-go areas. Chinese companies are investing in oil, gas and coal extraction to fuel their country’s rapidly expanding economy. There are hundreds of Chinese citizens working in Pakistan, and some have occasionally been attacked or kidnapped.
Its main interest in Pakistan is countering rising Indian power in the region, a goal that is shared by Islamabad, which views India as an enemy.
As ties with Washington have deteriorated this year, some Pakistani leaders have suggested China could fill the economic, diplomatic and military void if America scales back its commitment.
Part of the concern centers on the bitter aftermath of the May 2 U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, including reports that Pakistan gave China access to the damaged high-tech stealth helicopter left behind by U.S. commandos when they killed bin Laden. China denied that.
Despite the tensions following the raid, some American counter-terror cooperation with Pakistan has continued.