By Ishaan Tharoor, Global Spin
Reports reveal Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan's main military intelligence agency, the ISI, flew on a secret mission to Beijing for urgent talks this Monday. The visit followed swiftly on the heels of yet another round of diplomatic squabbling between Washington and Islamabad.
During a heated summer of disputes, tensions between the ISI and the CIA flared most recently over the alleged Pakistani harassment of American officials stationed in the country. Pasha's China trip has been interpreted by some as a tacit act of defiance — a reminder to his American counterparts that the Pakistanis can always look east to their “all-weather” friend across the Himalayas rather than bend the knee to the will of the U.S.
But it also may be a sign of China's growing disquiet with Pakistan. Another top-ranking Pakistani military officer, Lt. Gen Wahid Arshad, had already conducted a considerable tour of China just weeks ago in a bid to improve ties.
A few analysts have suggested that Pasha's trip — couched in vague terms about building a “broad-based strategic dialogue” — may have been less a visit and more of a summons.
After all, China claimed this week that Islamist militants trained in Pakistan were behind a violent attack in the far western city of Kashgar that killed at least 14 and injured dozens more. Like the U.S., perhaps the Chinese are now also frustrated at the dangers Pakistan has long let take root on its soil.