Very nice scoop from Mark Mazzetti in the New York Times who reveals that American officials have concluded that after it crashed during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound “Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar.” It’s a very telling story. That said, I’m not really sure that the story it tells is “further evidence of the depths of Pakistan’s anger over the Bin Laden raid.”
Without trying to play fake Pakistan expert, here’s the story I see. Pakistan is an independent country with its own interests. High on that list of interests is pursuing a rivalry with India, a country with which it has a longstanding territorial dispute and also a pretty profound ideological clash. India has a much larger population than Pakistan and a larger economy. And while Pakistan was generally richer than India on a per capita basis until about ten years ago, that’s no longer the case. So Pakistan needs partners in a standoff with its larger neighbor. For a long time, both the United States and China have been part of that equation of partner-seeking, and the preference of the Pakistani government is to be on good terms with both. But sometimes you kind of have to choose. And what we’re seeing here is that the Pakistani calculus was that a partnership with China is going to be more valuable in the medium term than a partnership with the United States.
Are they wrong? It’s not obvious to me that they are. In ten or fifteen years are we going to be wanting to take Pakistan’s side in disputes with India?