Comprehending solid China-Pakistan relations!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
An attempt has been made here to provide a concise understanding about recent trends in China-Pakistan relations.
China-Pakistan relations have been flourishing, weathering all settle backs, ever since they began.
Countries with totally different even contradictory socio-political and belief systems can be friends and even military allies. The rising China and Pakistani relations attest the point. On the surface, it seems rather improbable – China is atheist, Pakistan is Islamic; China is a stable communist/capitalist, Pakistan is an unstable military junta/capitalist; China is the world’s factory, Pakistan is neither a big market nor a big supplier of resources; and as to geopolitical balance to India, frankly, China simply doesn’t worry about India very much. But if there is one international relationship that China is “emotional” about, it’s the relationship with Pakistan. China is “Confucius” at heart. Beijing wants to maintain friendly relationship with every country but the word “friend” has a special meaning in the Chinese culture.
Pakistan shares a 372-mile border with Xinjiang, the northwestern Chinese region home to 10 million Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic-speaking minority, a region with sporadic outbreaks of violence between Uighurs and the majority Han population.
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.
Last year in April during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Pakistan, a $46 billion infrastructure and energy deal was announced between the two countries in order to boost the bilateral trade and to keep the Indo-US strategists focused on disrupting what they presume to be illogical ties, at bay. The trade deal is also a part of China’s ambitious “New Silk Road” strategy to create an economic corridor linking western China with South Asia and the Middle East, and it’s meant to further deepen a bilateral relationship that China is eager to promote.
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!
Stronger than steel?
China-Pakistan relations have passed through a strongly paved and mutually beneficial path of solid relationship over years. Both use their mutual understandings to counter both USA and India even as India is forging strategic partnership with unilateral USA for advancing its regional and global interests. USA is using India to counter China influence in the region with Russia, supplying maximum terror goods to both Indi and China, trying for a balance act.
In his visit to Pakistan, former Premier Li Keqiang said “the tree of China-Pakistan friendship” was planted decades ago, nurtured by successive leaders and “is now exuberant with abundant fruits.” Both sides are typically effusive in describing their ties, underlying the mutual benefits.
Pakistani leaders have on previous visits described the relationship as “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.”
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in a speech before a lunch hosted in Li’s honor said: “Friendship with China is a cornerstone of our foreign policy”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s main focus is on turning around Pakistan’s stuttering economy, and its relationship with China is an important factor in the country’s growth. Pakistan suffers from severe energy shortages and hopes China can help address that. Recently, the two countries signed agreements related to energy, technology and space.
Pakistan would like to increase trade with China, although the numbers are much smaller. Trade between the two countries exceeded $12 billion for the first time in 2012, and reached $15 billion within three years.
One example of the economic ties between Pakistan and China is the JF-17 fighter jet, which is jointly produced by the two countries. Six such jets escorted Li’s plane into Pakistani airspace when he arrived in Pakistan.
China took over operational control of a strategic deep-water seaport on Pakistan’s southwest coast earlier this year that could serve as a vital economic hub for Beijing and perhaps a key military outpost. Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea occupies a strategic location between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. It lies near the Strait of Hormuz, gateway for about 20 percent of the world’s oil.
China’s interest is driven by concerns about energy security as it seeks to fuel its booming economy. It wants a place in Pakistan to anchor pipelines to secure oil and gas supplies from the Gulf. Beijing also believes that helping develop Pakistan will boost economic activity in its far western province of Xinjiang and dampen a simmering, low-intensity rebellion there.
Like Americans who kill Muslims and get Pakistani leaders to stand by them, Beijing also uses Islamabad to obtain legitimacy for its crimes against Muslims in the country. Pakistan China has expressed concerned that Uighur militants are living in northwest Pakistan alongside al-Qaida-linked extremists. Pakistan says it has killed or extradited several of those militants over the past few years
Pakistan and China have also been close because of their mutual distrust of India, which borders both countries. China provides Pakistan with aid and foreign investment, while Islamabad offers Beijing important diplomatic backing in the face of Muslim-majority nations who might otherwise criticize China’s handling of its minority Muslim Uighur population.
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.
Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China were established on 21 May 1951, shortly after the Republic of China lost power in the Mainland in 1949. Sino-Pakistan relations, since then, 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. 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. China has provided economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan and each considers the other a close strategic ally.
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. While initially ambivalent towards the idea of a Communist country on its borders, Pakistan hoped that China would serve as a counterweight to Indian influence. With escalating border tensions leading to the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China and Pakistan aligned with each other in a joint effort to counter Indian encroachment. One year after China’s border war with India, Pakistan ceded theTrans-Karakoram Tract to China to end border disputes and improve diplomatic relations. Since then, an informal alliance that initially consisted of joint Indian opposition [has grown into a lasting relationship that has benefited both nations on the diplomatic, economic and military frontiers. Along with diplomatic support, Pakistan served as a conduit for China to open up to the West. China has in turn provided extensive economic aid and political support to Pakistan.
Since the two sides established their “all-weather diplomatic relations”, there have been frequent exchanges between the two countries’ leadership and peoples. For example, former Chinese Premier Zhou received warm welcomes in all of his four visits to Pakistan.
So there is a significant level of genuine affection from both sides that transcends politics, religion, culture, forms of government, and economics. It’s a relationship that has stood the test of hardships from both sides.
Evolution of mutual interest
One of the main reasons for the smooth conduct of bilateral relations by both nations is that China and Pakistan have no border disputes and no historical issues. And they share parts of Kashmir. Both have mutual interests in steadily stepping up the ties to greater heights.
Bilateral relations have evolved from an initial Chinese policy of neutrality to a partnership with a smaller but militarily powerful Pakistan. Pakistan and India both tried to woo China in the 1950s. Pakistan swooped in to claim the prize. This relationship would turn out to be one of the most mutually beneficial bilateral relations, test-tested-and-true through tough times during the Cold War and beyond. This relationship would only get stronger, as both countries are relatively isolated on the international stage, where US-EU-allies have disproportionate influence. In parallel, India and Russia share the same iron-clad relationship that Pakistan and China share. This is why India stood out as one of the handful of nations that supported Russia during the Crimean annexation.
Diplomatic relations were established in 1950, military assistance began in 1966, a strategic alliance was formed in 1972 and economic co-operation began in 1979. China has become Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner.
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.
Pakistan was one of only two countries, alongside Cuba, to offer crucial support for the PRC in after the Tiananmen protests of 1989. China and Pakistan also share close military relations, with China supplying a range of modern armaments to the Pakistani defense forces. 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.
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.
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.
China and Pakistan are both suspicious of India as a rival. “Your enemy’s enemy must be your friend” And it’s good for the ongoing border dispute with India, because Pakistan conceded China some territories in the Kashmir region. In contrast to that, the Tibetan exile government is operating in India and China is angry with India on that amount too. . Despite everything is always in flux in Pakistan and government is in crisis from opposition parties, one thing which didn’t change is the relationship with China. America-Israel-India and India-Russia nexus is seen extremely critical by Pakistan and China both.
China does not have allies as it has problems with all its neighbors (Vietnam, Japan, Singapore etc).Pakistan comes as a good ally that also helps it make connections with the Muslim world. China gets access to ports like Gwadar Port that lets it build “bases” across the Indian Subcontinent. In a situation of war the Indian Navy can cut off the oil that China gets from the naval route. This would make Chinese military to stop its expansion and bring it to a halt. They are now building a pipeline that would enable them to get oil through Pakistan. This also explains many Chinese investments in the POK.
Pakistan stood by China when she was down and out. It’s that simple. She was one of the first countries to recognize PRC, when the rest of the world recognized ROC. She stood by China throughout the 20-year embargo by the Western Allies, the break with USSR, the internal turmoil, and the severe famine in the late 60’s. She helped facilitate Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. After the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, she was one of the only two countries that stood by China. (The other one is Cuba)
Pakistan and India are hostile to each other, therefore Pakistan needs China to deter India, and also China needs Pakistan to counterbalance India. Pakistan serves as an important springboard for China to open its door to the Central Asia, West Asia, Europe and Africa. Pakistan needs China to balance its relationships with countries in central Asia.
China needs Pakistan’s assistance given that China now still faces security issues like Dongtu and Jiangdu from Xing Jiang province which borders Pakistan. “Chinese people haven’t forgotten that Pakistan is the country that donated all its tents to China after the Great Sichuan Earthquake,” wrote one Weibo user in a popular comment, referring to the deadly 2008 earthquake in China’s southwest, after which Pakistan donated $2 million worth of emergency aid, including 30,000 tents. In the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen protests in 1989, when China became an international pariah subject to human rights sanctions, Pakistani officials continued to meet with their Chinese counterparts regularly. That support has lived long in the Chinese consciousness, with one user marveling; “Now that is true brotherhood.” “Without China, India would destroy you.”
Many experts viewed the China-Pakistan relationship as a creature of geopolitical interest. As part of its “Look East” policy, New Delhi plans a more assertive Asia-Pacific strategy, aimed at countering China by strengthening relationships with countries such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea, which fear Chinese hegemony. New Delhi has lost influence in Afghanistan, where President Ashraf Ghani has tilted his government toward Pakistan and China, as part of a bid to secure peace in his country. After coming into office last fall, Ghani’s first foreign visits were to Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan. His first presidential trip to India took place this April, after he suspended an arms deal with New Delhi. As India looks East, it is losing influence to its west to China and Pakistan.
India’s inability to consolidate space in South Asia should induce greater caution in assessments of its rise as a global power.
Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily quoted people on the street in Pakistan exclaiming, “We would rather give up gold than abandon the China-Pakistan friendship,” with the news outlet stating that this was the “heartfelt wish” of the people there. Pakistan’s government, for its part, is no less effusive, with officials there previously having described its relationship with the East Asian giant as “sweeter than honey,” one rising “higher than the Himalayas.” China-Pakistan diplomatic relations have indeed been strong for decades. Pakistan was one of the earliest countries to establish official relations with the People’s Republic of China, in 1951. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and its top arms supplier, and in the past decade, the two neighbors have been swift to provide aid to each other after natural disasters.
Ill-focused by India, Pakistan has maintained a long and strong relationship with China. The long-standing ties between the two countries have been mutually beneficial. A close identity of views and mutual interests remain the centre-point of bilateral ties. As USA has begun annoying Islamabad on Indian request, Chinese friendship gives it the necessary strength.
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. Since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Pakistan has supported China on most issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China’s sovereignty like Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet and other sensitive issues such as human rights.
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.
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.
Since India and Pakistan conducted 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 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’s visit to Pakistan on 10 April deepened economic and strategic ties between the two all-weather allies, unveiling several economic projects. There were 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.
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. Pakistan also played an important role in bridging the communication gap between China and the West by facilitating the 1972 Nixon visit to China. The relations between Pakistan and China have been described by Pakistan’s ambassador to China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on.
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.
Pakistan brought USA closer to USA by playing proactive role, though Washington still wants to contain both Pakistan and 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 last year, signing almost every document Indian government gave to him. 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. Washington is focused on Indian money.
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.
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. Hence Beijing does not openly oppose USA.
Pakistan views China as a valuable asset and an important counterweight to the USA, which provided valuable aid as reward for supporting NATO terror operations in AF-Pak but often pressures Islamabad to “do more” to crack down and kill Muslims.
China and Pakistan 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. 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 uses Pakistan to deal with Muslims in China in a positive way. Pakistan’s own stability in Azad Kashmir 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.
Pakistan is getting a lot of money just because of the borders it has- from China because of India and from the US because of Afghanistan. Now USA is getting out of Afghanistan and USA does not want to pay Pakistan any service charges or aid.
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. It does not look possible for Indo-USA to dismantle the rising China-Pakistan relations even by using Russia to play its part well to woo Islamabad as a ploy.
Though Beijing has always been willing to use Pakistan to counter India, its support is conditional, depending on Pakistan’s willingness to help China. Both USA and India have very tactfully tired to divide China and Pakistan but failed.
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, like its military partner Israel, swings the way wind blows. But Pakistan does not enjoy even that privilege as it can change its friends as India does. .
As it depends on their economic support, today Pakistan takes 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-Pakistan relations that are based on mutuality of interests seem destined to grow.