Categorized | South Asian Politics


Posted on 30 April 2015 by admin


Dr. Hasan Askari


 Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad on April 21-22, 2015 was projected as a big affair by the Pakistan Government. He was accorded an enthusiastic welcome; the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and three Military chiefs welcomed him at the Islamabad Airport.

 The Chinese President gave a very strong message of diplomatic, military and economic support to Pakistan. His address to the joint session of the parliament and his other statements expressed strong support for Pakistan. He also appreciated Pakistan’s diplomatic support to China at a time when the United States and other western countries had virtually isolated China at the international level.

 The Chinese President made the biggest ever foreign assistance offer to Pakistan. Additionally, his diplomatic support to Pakistan gave a clear message to the international community that China intends to become the major donor to Pakistan in order to stabilize its internal situation.

 Traditionally the United States and international financial institutions have been the main source of economic assistance to Pakistan. However, if the current Chinese offer of economic assistance is fully implemented, China will surpass the United States in offering economic assistance.

  Since 1962-63, China has provided significant support to Pakistan for civilian and military industrial development. No other country helped so much to build Pakistan’s defense industry which also includes joint aircraft production. Tank production in Pakistan is also due to Chinese cooperation. Pakistan will not only get naval ships from China but China will also transfer its technology. An important aspect of Pakistan-Chia cooperation in defense production is the Chinese transfer of technology. China has also helped Pakistan’s nuclear program. This also includes the setting up of nuclear reactors for production of electricity. Two Chinese nuclear reactors are working in Chasma, Punjab or production of electricity. Two new reactors will be installed there. There is a proposal to install two nuclear reactors outside of Karachi for power generation. No Western country is willing to provide nuclear reactor and the related technical support to Pakistan for electricity generation.

  China’s economic assistance in the past and its new proposals are very important for Pakistan because not many countries are willing to offer such a large scale financial and diplomatic support to Pakistan. If the offers of economic support to Pakistan given during the latest visit of China’s President materialize, China will become the principal source of economic support to Pakistan.

 China’s basic interest is to ensure Pakistan’s economic development to ensure internal harmony and stability which it views as important for regional peace and stability.

 China views Pakistan as a reliable partner in the future as it China expands its regional and global role. Pakistan’s viewed as a stable friend if China’s regional and global interests clash with India. There are hardly any chances of a clash between the interests of Pakistan and China because Pakistan (unlike India) is not a contender for global and regional status.

 From China’s point-of-view Pakistan is relevant for the economic development of its Western province. Pakistan is also relevant to Chinese desire to expand its influence in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean area. Pakistan provides a land route to China to the Middle East.

 There are additional reasons for the increased Chinese support to Pakistan for overcoming its socio-economic problems. For China’s Western province (Xin-Jiang province) Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar are closer in distance from its own ports in South China Sea. Western China is a Muslim majority region and it faces separatist and hardline Islamic movement that engages in violence against the Chinese state and ordinary people.

  On the one hand the Chinese government uses force against these hardline Islamic groups to crush them. On the other hand China is pursuing economic development of these areas to win over the common people and isolate the groups that promote religious extremism and violence. Pakistan is relevant for Western region of China for two reasons. First, some of the hard line Islamic-Chinese groups have been linked with the Taliban based in Pakistani tribal areas and Afghanistan. China supports Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts. Its confidence in Pakistan has increased because of the on-going security operation in North Waziristan by the Pakistan military. China thinks that Pakistan’s strong control of the tribal areas will make it difficult for Chinese extremist groups to take refuge in the tribal areas or in Afghanistan.

 Second, China wants to use Pakistani sea ports and roads for international trade for its Western region which will help its economic development. China wants to build Gwadar as an international sea port and link it through roads and train-service with Western region of China. It is in this context that the notion of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor becomes relevant.

 Pakistan and China are also working closely to support the Kabul government led by President Asharaf Ghani for economic development and control of Afghan Taliban. If internal trouble in Afghanistan is brought under control, it will benefit both Pakistan and China. It is for this reason that China is taking more active interest in Afghanistan’s economic rehabilitation and reconstruction. It also supports the current efforts of Pakistan and Afghanistan to coordinate their efforts to control terrorism in the region and especially control the cross-border movement of the Taliban and other militant Islamic groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. China is encouraging Pakistan to facilitate a dialogue between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban.

  Cooperation between China and Pakistan is expected to expand after the latest visit of China’s President to Pakistan. One major project of economic cooperation that got highlighted during the Chinese President’s visit is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which proposes a road network between Kashgar and Gwadar but also the construction of a number of industrial and electricity generation projects along the proposed economic corridor. We will discuss the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor in the next article.


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