By Abdul Ruff
China, a UN veto power and the Asian giant in aspects, has been making all out efforts to become a super power. That is the reason why the US policy of Asia pivot targeting China (and Russia) did not make any real impact.
China–Pakistan relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to end official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the PRC- the communist China. Since then, both countries have placed considerable importance on the maintenance of an extremely close and supportive relationship and the two countries have regularly exchanged high-level visits resulting in a variety of agreements.
Sino-Pakistan relations, since the early 1950s, have been consistent, multi-faceted and span strategic defence, political, economic and diplomatic ties. China considers Pakistan useful in countering India, values its geostrategic position and considers it an important ally in the Muslim world. Bilateral relations have evolved from an initial Chinese policy of neutrality to a partnership with a smaller but militarily powerful Pakistan. Diplomatic relations established in 1950 further grew as the Chinese military assistance began in 1966, a strategic alliance was formed in 1972 and economic co-operation began in 1979. China has provided economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan and each considers the other a close strategic ally.
Although Indo-China tensions raised the profile of Pakistan-China ties, the economic support of China at the cost of Pakistani relationship with USA increased prospect of better bilateral ties with vigor.
Pakistan has been the top most beneficiary of China’s relations with the region, getting maximum military and other economic benefits. Advantages of China include sharing a part of Kashmir with Pakistan as the latter has given a part of Azad Kashmir to China for occupational use. Pakistani and Chinese leaders over the years have pledged robust cooperation in several fields and described their relationship as an “all-weather” friendship.
China supported Pakistan’s opposition to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan and is perceived by Pakistan as a regional counterweight to NATO and the USA.
China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir while Pakistan supports China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. China wants Pakistan to help reduce the tensions with Muslim region in China and to use it to deal with India, an emerging economic power.
Military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. There is, of course, a level of trust and intimacy between China and Pakistan that comes from the sharing of military and nuclear secrets. China also worked closely with Pakistan to supply weapons, paid for by the United States and Saudi Arabia, to militants fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
Today, China has become Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner. Pakistan is China’s biggest arms buyer, counting for nearly 47% of Chinese arms exports. Recently, both nations have decided to cooperate in improving Pakistan’s civil nuclear power sector.
So much of bilateral ties have evolved to a level of strategic relationship that now maintaining close relations with China is a central part of Pakistan’s foreign policy. So much so, the reduced aid from USA in terms of terror goods does not bother Islamabad much, notwithstanding the fact that India pushes USA to harm Pakistani interests. . China says the Gwadar Port will boost Pakistan’s, region’s economy.
China, seemingly the economic and military backbone of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, has been assisting these South Asian nations as a strategy of shoring up the regional support against America’s Asia pivot policy that somehow managed to take on board South Asian super power India weaken the Chinese influence in the troubled region.
Bedsides economic ties, China and Pakistan also maintain strong military ties. While Russia has been the top arms supplier to China, Beijing today is clearly Pakistan’s top arms supplier, a position until recently held by the USA. Chinese and Pakistani militaries carry out joint exercises and there is continuous exchange of high-level visits demonstrating that relations are robust. The PLA’s training establishments are major destinations for the Pakistan military. In September 2014, a flotilla of the PLA Navy ships made a friendly visit to Karachi. These were followed by several other visits of naval ships. At the diplomatic level, both countries cooperate closely at the bilateral and multilateral levels, and take common positions on global and regional issues.
China has extended invaluable cooperation that extends to Pakistani military establishment. It has not only provided weapons and equipment but has also assisted Pakistan in developing a strong a defence industrial capability. The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Industries Taxila, several factories and production lines in the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, maritime projects for the navy and missile factories have been set up with Chinese assistance. In the 1970s and the 1980s, China set up major industrial units like the Heavy Mechanical Complex and the Heavy Forge Factory that helped build Pakistan’s intrinsic technological and industrial base.
The proposed $45 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, which has strategic connotations when implemented, should provide a huge boost in transforming Pakistan’s economic landscape by linking south, central and western Asia. Development of the economic corridor and the Gwadar port as an energy hub by China are mutually beneficial projects. It will provide China access to the Straits of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The economic corridor will link Kashgar in China with Gwadar and open up enormous economic opportunities for both countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on 10 April to deepen economic and strategic ties between the two all-weather allies, also holding high-level meetings and unveil several economic projects. There are over two dozen MoUs and agreements regarding nuclear power, the Gwadar port, the Pak-China Economic Corridor (PCEC), energy, trade and investment signed. Again, Xi was to visit Pakistan last year during his South Asia trip to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives but postponed it due to political unrest in the country with opposition leader Imran Khan staging a protest in Islamabad for alleged rigging in 2013 polls that were won by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Meanwhile, amid US pivot to Asia and anti-China rhetoric, China also courts Washington. The coincidence of interests between China and the USA is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that indeed it was US drone strikes rather than Pakistani troops that killed Uighur “militant” leaders wanted by China in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
Since India and Pakistan conducted competitive nuclear tests in 1998, China has also fretted about the possibility of an all-out war between the two. Thus when Pakistan began a border conflict with India in the Kargil region of Jammu Kashmir in 1999, China refused to provide it military or diplomatic support. Significantly, Chinese officials were in regular contact with their US counterparts during the Kargil crisis to ensure both Beijing and Washington delivered the same message to Pakistan about the need to pull back its troops.
China’s role in helping Pakistan obtain nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable missiles by supplying technology and expertise—going as far as flying in supplies of highly enriched uranium—to help it keep pace with India’s nuclear weapons program. But China has never committed troops on Pakistan’s behalf, even during its many conflicts with India. China would like to see the India-Pakistan relationship exist perhaps in a state of managed mistrust.
Pakistan’s own stability is uncertain and more importantly, its influence on the restive northwestern autonomous Chinese region of Xinjiang that has a significant majority of Muslim Uighurs who are denied basic freedoms for worship.
Though Beijing has always been willing to use Pakistan to counter India, its support is conditional.
Pakistan played a very important role in bridging the communication gap between China and the West by facilitating the 1972 Nixon visit to China. Of late, USA has been on job in getting China to transfer Pakistani nukes to some “safe place” or dismantle them. White House is eager to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as it is creating conditions so that Pakistan continues to slide into instability, never to recover!
Pakistan brought China closer to USA for trade by playing a proactive role, though Washington still wants to contain Beijing. President Barack Obama’s presence in New Delhi on India’s Republic Day parade and the heavy tilt of Narendra Modi towards aligning his country’s policies with Washington created unease both in China and Pakistan. The Chinese worry heightened when President Barack Obama made an unexpected visit to India to witness military parade as part of Indian annual Repulbic Day celebration.
Chinese cooperation with Pakistan has reached economic high points, with substantial Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructural expansion including the Pakistani deep-water port at Gwadar. Both countries have an ongoing free trade agreement. Pakistan has served as China’s main bridge between Muslim countries.
Sun Weidong, the Chinese ambassador in Pakistan, said the rejuvenation of Gwadar Port, a part of the ambitious China- Pakistan Economic Cooperation (CPEC) project, is a long-term initiative and should proceed “step-by-step”. The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southern Pakistan, and the Gwadar Port, to China’s restive Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. Sun billed the Gwadar Port as a project aimed at improving regional and economic cooperation and said it will be a hub connecting the region’s land and maritime routes. The project included pipelines to pump oil from ships at the port to the Xinjiang region.
For China, the corridor will help to bolster the development of connectivity in the region and achieve common development and prosperity for all countries, while the corridor will boost economic activity in Pakistan, whose growth rate is expected to be 4.9% this year. In November, the port received its first large shipment of Chinese goods. The corridor will develop Pakistan’s ailing economy.
As the CPEC t passes through the Pakistan-occupied Azad Kashmir (PoK), India, which brutally occupies Jammu Kashmir, has raised objection to the project. Indian forces have murdered over 1000, 000 innocent Kashmiris. Gwadar Port occupies a great location, according to experts, because its proximity to the Arabian Sea gives China and Central Asian countries access to the Persian Gulf and the markets of the Middle East. The Gwadar Port is expected to be used by China for its strategic accesses to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Despite all Asia pivot drills in Asia by USA, Beijing’s economic and commercial links with the USA are so closely intertwined that it is difficult for either country to disassociate itself from the other. China owes much of its phenomenal economic rise to the opportunity that the American market offered for which Pakistan was responsible. . No other country’s consumer market could absorb China’s huge manufacturing base.
Unlike Pakistan which approaches foreign policy and relations with foreign nations very casually, China has always taken a position that time is on its side and it has shown extraordinary foresight in handling foreign relations with regional and global powers. India swings the way wind blows. But Pakistan does not enjoy even that privilege.
Today, Islamabad is in a precarious situation as it must take orders from both Washington and Beijing. Islamabad has to be on its guards since secret talks take place between the USA and China on the one hand and India. China realizes American power and its economic and political clout, and would like to retain a cooperative relationship.
As Indian regime now- a – days asks Pakistan to surrender Azad Kashmir to India so that it can have entire Jammu Kashmir. But Kashmiris are fighting for sovereignty and freedom from Indian occupational criminal system.
China-Pakistan relations that are based on mutuality of interests, and are described as a solid rock, seem destined to grow from strength to strength.