Harbouring great expectations with regard to China as panacea for all its ills would do no good to Pakistan as the former’s own role in the emerging scenario would matter a lot in the upcoming great game in the region.

Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who was among the panelists at a session titled ‘Contemporary Great Games’ and moderated by historian Ahmad Rashid, said this.

Others in the panel included Swedish Pakistani Qaiser Mahmood, US journalist Steve Coll, Italian journalist Vivana Mazza and former Kyrgyzstan president Roza Otunbayeve.

Ms Rabbani said there was no denying the fact that Chinese investment was going to impact Pakistan in a big way, strategically and economically, but the prospect was being “overblown”.

She said China was more massively investing in Central Asia as compared to Pakistan. The actual Great Game would unfold in South China sea and the areas around it, she added.

She said in the contemporary great games the non-state actors had a much more important role.

To Ahmad Rashid’s query about the response of Europe, especially Italy, to the migrant or refugee crisis, Ms Mazza said: “The crisis had been used by right-winger political parties to legitimise their stance against immigrants.

She said the refugees crisis had created a lot of apprehensions among the Europeans, especially incidents like Paris attack were seen with a great concern.

“I go to schools and kids ask me whether the militants would come riding boats,” she said, adding that the right wingers were exploiting such concerns to their benefits.

She said Italy was a homogeneous society but the influx of refugees would change it, rather the whole Europe.

Ms Roza, who had been a member of Kyrgyzstan communist party, said while her country was still coming out of the hangover of communist rule, it was confronted with radical Islam.

She deplored that the non-state actors were getting stronger as they were mobile and were infiltrating schools.

Steve Coll said like Pakistan there were many governments in the United States including Congress and Pentagon and that era of counter insurgency interventions was over.

He said though there was a discussion going upon defining Pakistani Identity and the struggle among various identities, but he had a great faith in the binding power of Pakistani nationalism, which was even stronger than American nationalism.

Qaiser Mahmood hoped Europe would adapt to the change being heralded by refugees crisis by “finding a new way to define ourselves”.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2016

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