Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Pakistan visit on April 10 and China-Pak relations!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
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.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to arrive in Pakistan on 10 April to deepen economic and strategic ties between the two all-weather allies. He would hold high-level meetings and unveil several economic projects.
Pakistan Foreign Office had earlier confirmed that the visit of the Chinese leader will take place this year but had not given the exact dates. Xi is also expected to address the joint session of the Parliament on the second day of his visit, an official said. There are over two dozen MoUs and agreements regarding nuclear power, the Gwadar port, the Pak-China Economic Corridor (PCEC), energy, trade and investment that are likely to be signed.
Xi was earlier expected to attend the Pakistan National Day parade on 23 March as a special guest but could not undertake the trip due to some domestic engagements. 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.
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–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.
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.
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 United States. China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir while Pakistan supports China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. Military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
The coincidence of interests between China and the United States 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. 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.
As veto members of the UNSC China and USA have maintained close ties dealing with global problems and Washington pressures Beijing to control Pakistan. Since India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, China has also fretted about the possibility of an all-out war between the two. 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.
More than Pakistan’s own stability, China uses Islamabad to contain the Muslim issue in 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. It Pakistan which brought USA closer to USA by playing proactive role, though Washington still wants to contain Beijing.
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. 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.
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. Secret talks take place between the USA and China on the one hand and India, on the other. As it depends on their economic support, Pakistan takes orders from both Washington and Beijing.
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. No other country’s consumer market could absorb China’s huge manufacturing base. Moreover, China realizes American power and its economic and political clout, and would like to retain a cooperative relationship.
China’s leadership has opted for maintaining good working relations with India. It has a growing economic and commercial relationship and trade between the two countries has reached $70 billion and is fast growing. Beijing understands the fallout of an adversarial relation with India on its economy. Its primary focus is on domestic development.
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.
Instead of using its influence on Pakistan in pushing Islamabad to vacate the Kashmir parts it occupies as Azad Kashmir, China also got a part of Kashmir form China.
India is quite happy that by jointly occupying Kashmir, China, a veto member, also helps India in retaining Jammu Kashmir, if possible, forever. New Delhi is also coming closer to Beijing all in all possible ways to see there is no independent Pakistan and no resolution of Kashmir issue by allowing Kashmir to decide about their own future. However, China also vehemently opposes Indian permanent bid for discredited UNSC.
That China is misusing Islamabad to against Islam in China is a viewed in New Delhi as the a major development in anti-Islamism and Islamophobia in Asia. New Delhi is also misusing the political Muslims in India to promote Hinduism and work against Islam.
Pakistan, destabilized by its own “strategically: USA, is eager to get as much finances form USA and China as service charges for whatever it does for both. This has made Indian worry about Pakistan being any real threat to Indian interests.
Since it does not want to allow freedom for Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir, it seems to be playing a joint game with India over Kashmir issue. In fact India and Pakistan jointly attacked Jammu Kashmir as soon as they got independence from Britain in 1947. That is the sad part of Kashmiri freedom struggle. Never interested in a sovereign Kashmir, China wants the status quo on Kashmir to continue
Secrecy is maintained by all these nations as part of diplomacy.
China 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.
So much of bilateral ties evolved to strategic relationship that now maintaining close relations with China is a central part of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
China-Pakistan relations that are based on mutuality of interests seem destined to grow. President Xi’s visit will certainly be reassuring and reflecting the strong bonds that exist between the two countries that have stood the vagaries of time.
Whether or not it would be honest about Kashmir, Islamabad would do better if it does not play into the dirty anti-Islamic hands against Islam and Muslims in China just in order to make money.
Yes, diplomacy demands that one does not – and need not- speak the truth!