By Vaibhav Parekh
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
“Pakistan is China’s irreplaceable all weather friend and both countries part of community of shared destiny.” This statement, by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in short sums up the kind of ties Pakistan and China have had over decades. Their relations started developing from 1950s and have been growing ever since, almost without glitches. After forming diplomatic relations with each other, China offered military assistance which was followed by strategic alliance and economic cooperation.
The People’s Republic of China and Pakistan have taken considerable leverage of their geo-political situation. China has been a steady source of military support to Pakistan since 1962 by helping set up munition factories, providing technological assistance and modernizing existing facilities in Pakistan. Such developments have continued ever since; and now China is Pakistan’s biggest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner. Both have military cooperation on projects ranging from fighter jets to guided missiles. Diplomatic sentiments too, have been buoyant. China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and Pakistan, in turn has supported China in issues of Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. While Chinese investment in Pakistan’s military sector has been dominating economic transactions, now the Chinese have taken a keen interest in Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sector too. China helped Pakistan set up its nuclear infrastructure for supplying power when Western nations had imposed sanctions on Pakistan over procurement of Uranium and Plutonium enriching equipment. A Chinese telecom operator Zong is Pakistan’s first and only 4G operator.
Since both the countries share caustic relations with the Indian Military, their defense deals seem intuitive. But another factor that is bolstering their collaboration is the US. It has become increasingly clear to US that Pakistan has always harbored Islamic extremists and so has tried to tone down the fluid flow of cash and credit as aid to Pakistan. The covert US operation that killed Osama Bin Laden had also made their relations more austere. Taking stock of such developments, Pakistan has found a convenient ally in China. China also knows this very well and is filling the void that has been created by secession of American support to Pakistan. The Chinese have their own interests; keeping a nuclear armed nation close has its benefits, especially when relations to India come into the picture.
There have been few cases which could have led to disruptions in relations. China is apprehensive about having Islamic extremists just across the border and Islamabad is not sincere about obliterating Pakistani havens of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim separatist group drawn from the Uighur ethnic minority who live in China’s western Xinjiang region. There have also been couple of incidents where Chinese engineers were killed and Chinese massage parlor employees were taken hostage in extremist attacks. But then, the milestones that these neighbors have achieved in terms of diplomatic relations are likely to offset such minor turbulences.
So presently all seems well between Beijing and Islamabad. China does not seem to be wary of supporting a country which is an abode for so many extremist groups. What remains to be seen is if China may get a taste of its own medicine, and suffer from violence, like Pakistan is, over the years. But as far as China’s vision to developing supremacy in Asia and coming in the good books of Muslim nations is concerned, China-Pakistan relations may only continue to foster.
Parekh Vaibhav is pursuing a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT (BHU), Varanasi and is in his penultimate year. His hometown is Ahmedabad and is a thorough gujju at heart! He has a new-found interest in economics and likes to explore the impact of economic theories in normal, day to day lives. When he is not in the real world, he is most probably dreaming of a tour with friends to explore Europe. He can be reached at- firstname.lastname@example.org.