The world has changed immeasurably in all respects since the two countries established diplomatic relationship 60 years ago. Similarly, the civil and military leadership has also changed several times over the years in Pakistan, but nothing has changed in terms of the contents and context in which our bilateral relations have grown. Pakistan continues to see it corner stone of her foreign policy and beneficial. This relationship has been constantly moving on an ascending trajectory, gaining strength with the passage of time.
The friendly relationship has been described over the years by the leaderships of the two countries as all-weather; time-tested; deep-rooted; trusted; deeper than the oceans and higher than the Himalayas; sweeter than honey; and lately, as comprehensive; strategic and stronger than steel. These expressions are not simple cliches but truly reflect the strength, depth and maturity of the relationship constructed over the last 60 years.
China Kingho Group, a large private mining company, recently pulled out of a $19 billion investment project in Pakistan. The deal, which would most certainly have been Pakistan’s largest influx foreign investment, was cancelled due to security concerns on the part of China Kingho Group. This is perhaps a relevant time to place the relations between China and Pakistan in context. Pakistan has always deeply treasured its friendship with China and has considered the world’s second largest economy as a strategic military ally.
Bilateral ties between the two countries date back to 1950 when Pakistan recognized the People’s Republic of China. Pakistan’s growing closeness with China appears to be particularly vital given its souring relationship with the United States and hostility with its South Asian neighbor, India. However, as expected, both Pakistan and China need to cross rough terrain to propel their relations to a new level. Given Pakistan’s choppy ties with the US, the country has always looked towards China as a beacon of support.
This has become more evident in recent times, especially since tensions in Pakistan-US relations have touched new highs after the US-led assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory, doubts expressed by high-ranking US officials over Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorism and the alleged involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency, in supporting terrorist groups. China has reciprocated this trust by making significant investments in Pakistan’s infrastructure.
For instance, China played an active role in financing and constructing the Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan along the Arabian Sea. Furthermore, China has taken considerable measures to support Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. In September last year, China National Nuclear Corp. announced that it planned to build a 1-gigawatt nuclear power plant in addition to two 330-megawatt reactors that it had agreed to supply earlier in 2010. Last month, an agreement was signed with China’s Global Mining Co. o set up a $3 billion mining and power project. In August this year, China aided Pakistan in launching a telecommunications satellite. Pakistan openly welcoming these overtures by China and Chinese companies coupled with the fact that it is also China’s largest export market for conventional arms is a clear indication of the importance of strong relations with China to the South Asian country. China Kingho Group’s recent cancellation of the $19 billion deal, however, has placed a spoke in the wheels of this blossoming alliance.
Some cite this recent move as evidence that China has not justified the faith placed in it by Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s Board of Investment, China’s net foreign direct investment in Pakistan stood at $47. 4 million in the fiscal year 2011. This figure is only a fraction of the US’ net foreign direct investment in Pakistan. China, on the other hand, has expressed concerns over the precarious security situation in Pakistan and the consequent risks to its investments in the country. The bilateral ties also face external obstacles in the form of suspicion from the US and India.
Given India’s rather eventful history with its neighbor, it has constantly expressed concerns over this alliance. India has raised questions over the appropriateness of China’s growing arms sales to Pakistan and their recent nuclear cooperation. Furthermore, reports of Chinese companies entering into ventures with Pakistani firms to exploit the mineral rich region of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory disputed by India, have also raised the ire of the Indian authorities.
A number of foreign policy experts also hold the view that China is trying to prop up Pakistan as a regional counterweight to India. Strong Sino-Pakistani relations have historically proved to be a thorn in talks between India and China. Sino-Pakistani ties took a new turn after the war fought between India and China in 1962 and China’s continued military support to Pakistan has prevented mutual ties between the world’s fastest growing economies from expanding beyond their current state.
The Obama Administration has also raised objections to China supplying nuclear technology to Pakistan fearing the risks emanating from the unstable security status of the country. The US states that such a deal cannot go through as Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the deal has not received clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 46 nation international body that oversees nuclear trade. Given that Pakistan and China have maintained cordial relations for many decades, it does not seem hard to imagine this alliance from making vast progress.
Pakistan will hope that the recent development with the China Kingho Group is only a blip in the radar. Pakistan will most certainly want to remove any hindrances that may come in the way of Chinese investment as it cannot afford to alienate another strategic partner. However, it remains to be seen if this association can withstand Pakistan’s vulnerability to extremist elements and external pressure from those who consider this partnership as potentially dangerous. China Pullout Deals Blow to Pakistan
A Chinese mining company pulled out of what was to be Pakistan’s largest foreign-investment deal because of security concerns, complicating Islamabad’s effort to position its giant neighbor as an alternative to the U. S. as its main ally. An official at China Kingho Group, one of China’s largest private coal miners, said on Thursday it had backed out in August from a $19 billion deal in southern Sindh province because of concerns for its personnel after recent bombings in Pakistan’s major cities.
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Sindh Board of Investment, acknowledged the cancellation of plans to build a coal mine, power and chemical plants over 20 years. But he said he was hopeful Kingho would reconsider. Pakistan began playing up its friendship with China after the U. S. killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May sent relations between Islamabad and Washington into a tailspin. But China’s response has been lukewarm so far, suggesting that Islamabad may remain dependent on billions of dollars in military and civilian aid from Washington for some time to come.
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani used a visit this week from Meng Jianzhu, China’s minister of public security, to promote the friendship, which Mr. Gilani said was “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey. ” Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani thanked Mr. Meng, who pledged $1. 2 million in aid for Pakistani law-enforcement agencies, for his country’s “unwavering support. ”
The gushing compliments contrasted recent U. S. -Pakistani rhetoric. Islamabad warned last week that the alliance could be in jeopardy because of U. S. ccusations of Pakistani support for militants. In many cases, though, China’s support has stopped short of what Pakistan had hoped, while Islamabad, in Beijing’s eyes, has failed to live up to its promises, including to ensure security for investments. A number of Chinese workers have been killed in Pakistan in the past decade, some of them in troubled Baluchistan province, where armed separatist insurgents have opposed Chinese investments. Pakistan’s army has been lobbying for a formal defense pact with China in the wake of the bin Laden raid, a Pakistani government official said.
Such a pact would draw China into any conflict involving their ally and likely anger the U. S. and India, Pakistan’s regional rival. China hasn’t commented on the matter. A spokesman for Pakistan’s military declined to comment. “The Chinese wouldn’t go in for that. It’s too much to put on their plate when they can’t ensure how much they can control their own ally,” says Pakistani military analyst Aisha Siddiqa. Beijing is also keen to balance its support for Islamabad with a renewed push to improve relations with India, a growing trade partner.
And China is eager to avoid tensions with the U. S. that could disrupt a first official visit to Washington early next year by Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over as Communist Party chief in 2012 and president in 2013, diplomats and analysts say. Other Pakistani requests for China to increase funding of infrastructure projects haven’t progressed. In May, Pakistan’s defense minister said China had agreed to take over operation of Gwadar, which is doing little business as a commercial port, and that Islamabad has asked China to build a base there for Pakistan’s navy.
China has remained silent on the issue. Pakistani officials involved in Gwadar’s operations say there is no sign China will take over. The officials say they have been frustrated by China’s failure to finance and build a road network to connect the port to the rest of the country. Some Chinese experts say Gwadar’s cut-off location in Baluchistan makes it less attractive as a military base or as a transit point for China’s oil imports, given the high cost and security risk of piping them across some of Pakistan’s least stable regions.
January 9, 2018
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