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Pakistan-China Relations in the 21st Century

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Authors: Areeja Syed and Ahmed Bux Jamali*

Pakistan recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1950 and started diplomatic relations on 21st May 1951. Pakistan from the very beginning has kept its foreign policy approach very friendly as both are immediate neighbors as well. Historically, four major events reshaped the smoothness of relationship towards more cooperation which are the boundary agreement in March 1963, support in 1965 war, the Kissinger secret visit arranged by Pakistan to China and rare veto option adapted by China in United Nations Security Council. The essence of relationship is termed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto “I should like to make it clear beyond all doubt that we have friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China and that nothing will be permitted in any way to endanger those relations. Our relations with China are an independent factor in our foreign policy and not contingent on any other. In the best interests of Pakistan, we shall maintain the spirit of goodwill, friendship and cordiality with the great People’s Republic of China. I declare that our friendship with China is not tainted by any form of bargain or barter. It is steadfast amity between two neighboring Asian States.”  and one of the famous statement of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang “If you love China, Love Pakistan too.” These statements are not only the building blocks but the proven realities of the glories of time between the two countries. Over 60 years of cordial relations, the depth has escalated more and more keeping in view changing international stages from global war on terror to other major international events onwards . China proved her all seasoned friendship based on equality and mutual respect and harmony. The high level talks and invitations to dignitaries creates a conducive atmosphere for the bilateral relationship. Pakistan and china need each other in the field of economy, strategic alliances, military joint ventures as both are nuclear power countries and student’s exchanges programs to further strengthen the ties in the advancement of science and technology and many more aspects of life.

Economic Relationship

The economy is the soul of foreign policy so is the case here in Pak-China relations. Pakistan and China signed a preferential trade agreement in 2003 where goods and services started revolving around the two countries. With the passage of time, China signed The free trade agreement (FTA) which was adapted in 2006. It was estimated that the bilateral trade was estimated to hit $15 billion by 2011. One basic advantage of signing of FTA was economic enhancement and its operationalization in October 2009 proved to be very economic-oriented outlook for Pakistan’s exports with China.  On the other hand, Pakistani and Chinese banking sectors are cooperating for a long time. Earlier, Bank of China was opened with two branches in 1951 but couldn’t succeeded. Pakistani governmental banks such as National Bank of Pakistan prepared to open branches in China in April 2008 which was later on negotiated between the officials. It was during the previous Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pakistan in December 2010 that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was invited to open branches in Pakistan and the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) was offered to commence activities in China.

There must be a series of visit of businessman and tycoons of both countries to expand the volume of trade of different items of the two countries. The economic strength must be revolutionized to keep this zone well established and free from any trade barriers. The business communities must create a platform to encourage the new products to China and then at the global market. The two sides expressed satisfaction over the growing volume of their bilateral trade, which has crossed US$ 15 billion and agreed to make efforts to raise it to US$ 20 billion in next three years. The growth rate must be positive and new avenues must be created for investors of both countries.

Strategic Partnership

Pakistan being a highly strategic country, is very much advantageous and pivotal to China keeping in view her strategic interests in this region. The enhancement in the cooperation of defense production regarding aircrafts, fighter bombs, tanks, and heavy artillery is remarkable for the changing regional dynamics.  The main reason of such a huge cooperation of China is to secure the region and achieving the desired goals such as access to Indian and Arabian sea, surveillance to US and Indian Naval activities and access to the markets of Middle East particularly in the field of energy. Their joint ventures and joint production have led to manufacture the MBT 2000 Al-Khalid Tank and JF-17 Thunder, a fighter aircraft, which has the strategic significance and is a unique example of Sino-Pak deep rooted friendship. The unprecedented level of friendship can be evaluated in the views of the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz that; “The relations between the two countries are growing very fast, particularly for development of communication and energy sectors, Pak-China cooperative partnership has ushered in a new era in line with the ideas and vision, conceived by the leadership of the two countries”

This idea has been inherited from generations to generations among the nations of two countries, that Pakistan is always their first and foremost priority in the foreign policy and China is the cornerstone for Pakistan’s foreign policy as well. The strategic relationship of China with Pakistan is very important for both because it enables China to limit the regional ambitions of India towards its hegemonic designs and further strengthening the Pakistan as a major strategic partner in this region.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

This is one of the best mega project in the history of the two states and indeed a great symbol of the deep rooted friendship of Sino-Pak relationship from 1951 to 2015. The agreement was signed between the leaders of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on his visit to Pakistan in April 2015 respectively. The historic words of Xi are remarkable for the glory as he described that “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother.” The main aims of such a project is to connect Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang through a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas and will operationalize from Gwadar to Kashgar. Overall construction costs are estimated over $46 billion with the entire project. The Corridor is an extension of China’s proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative and indeed a fate changer of billions of people. It will open new avenues for employments and trade pathway from China and the Middle East and Africa at large . Moreover, CPEC is not bound on One Belt One Road policy, its maximize the opportunities between two countries which has various initiatives for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives globally. China has a lot to gain from its economic corridor arrangement with Pakistan; its centuries ‘old vision of reaching the warm waters through the shortest route is coming to fruition through peaceful ways. This will represent a new model of regional and South Asia cooperation which will offer new opportunities for Asia’s rejuvenation and the common prosperity of all countries of the globe led by China and its vision of connectivity.

Challenges And Opportunities

The world has entered into a new era of Globalization and interdependence and the nations have opted mutually beneficial foreign policy behaviors. Those behaviors are based on economic integration and security cooperation, strategic partnership and making peaceful alliances. Pakistan and China are the well-wishers of peace and prosperity not only in South Asia but the world at large. With the changing geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic realities, it is necessary for Pakistan to keep on testing the loyalty, limits and trust of China relationship. Ostensibly, the dynamics of the world have changed as the world has fast traversed the era of economic war and has also has entered the new era of economic cooperation simultaneously. Resultantly, the neighboring countries collaborate with one another economically so that the whole region reaps dividends. The changing dynamics can be seen on10th July,2015 at the 15th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at Ufa, Russia where the status of both Pakistan and India was raised from observer to full member. This will reshape the strategic dynamics and pose new challenges between Pakistan and China relations. Just a few years ago, no one could have imagined that Russia, China, India and Pakistan would opt to join hands for shared economic interests, regardless of their long-standing disputes. This will ultimately lead towards new horizon of changing scenarios within South Asian states. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iranian Nuclear agreement with P5+1, Kashmir issue with India, revival of the old silk route and Afghan peace process will reshape the regional paradigm in Pakistan’s foreign policy. During Cold war era,US-Russian relations were always based on aggressive posture. They both were ready for every single competition in international arena. US will prefer China as a counter-weight against Russian designs.  This will create favorable conditions for China and Pakistan.

Conclusion

After touching all the dimensions of Pakistan China relationship, one thing that comes to mind is that; its high time for Pakistan to be more focused one Self-reliance policies ratherthan focusing on assistance of China and other international players. China being an immediate neighbor is historic and all seasoned friend but we must establish our potential and increase our international outlook. This will prove to be Pakistan’s less dependency on China and other international players. Economically speaking, Pakistan must settle down its economic issues so that it can enhance its economy smoothly. Resultantly, it will be less dictated in the matters of Political and Economic issues of the foreign policy of Pakistan. Pakistan must keep amicable relations with its neighboring countries especially with India which is historic rival to avoid further notorious actions via Afghanistan and Baluch separatist movement. The four wars never came with any results for both India and Pakistan. The solution of Kashmir issue and other major issues must be settled without using force or inviting other players to deteriorate the relationship. It is our mutual issue and we have to settle it with win-win goals. We need to compromise our designs and ambitions so that South Asian region can be made more peaceful. Pakistan must learn lessons from history of China as she could not get its parts as Hong Kong, Macao form Britain until it became politically strong and economically sound player. Summing up, China and Pakistan are great nations and close neighbors bound by common destiny and goals. No matters how scenarios are changing, both of the countries have to overcome all challenges and carry forward the traditional friendship more deeply. The Chinese-Pakistani government must strengthen people to people contact for further strengthening Sino-Pak partnership for building a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

*Ahmed Bux Jamali holds a Masters in International Relations from Jilin University China Presently, he is serving as Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies Islamabad. He is available at ab_ir92[at]yahoo.com

Author is pursuing MPhil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad. Her area of research focuses on International Security, Strategic issues and Public Diplomacy.

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South Asia

Towards Dual-Tripolarity: An Indian Grand Strategy for the Age of Complexity

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International Relations are in an unprecedented flux as the world enters a period of full-spectrum paradigm changes involving everything from science and technology, health, geo-economics, geopolitics, and the socio-cultural sphere. Never before has everything unfolded in such an accelerated and compressed way, which has understandably become overwhelming for many people. Few can foresee what the future will hold—other than the broad forecast that its geo-economic structure will be influenced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution while that of geopolitics will disproportionately be shaped by the global competition between the superpowers of the U.S. and China.

The unprecedented U.S.-led Western sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine proved that economic interests are subservient to political ones since there’s no economic logic behind the EU dutifully complying with Washington’s demands to decouple from Russia other than the fact the bloc lacks the political independence to say no to America. This observation confirms that identifying the key geopolitical trends of the emerging world order is crucial to predicting its most likely geo-economic contours. To this end, acknowledging the worldwide competition between the American and Chinese superpowers is the first step towards that goal.

The second entails becoming aware of Indian thinker Sanjaya Baru’s bi-multipolarity concept that the author of the present piece elaborated more about in his RIAC column from last December titled “The Neo-NAM: From Vision To Reality”. To summarize, Mr. Baru posited that this superpower competition will disproportionately shape the emerging world order but that the growing number of great powers below them in the international hierarchy will balance between themselves, the American and Chinese superpowers, and the comparatively medium- and smaller-sized countries at the bottom of this hierarchy in pursuit of maximizing their strategic autonomy.

Russia and India can play a unique role in this respect because their time-tested special and privileged comprehensive partnership coupled with their shared goal of complementarily maximizing their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity enables them to jointly pursue the creation of a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”). This proposed structure would serve the purpose of pioneering a third pole of influence and thus transitioning International Relations away from bi-multipolarity and towards tripolarity ahead of its final outcome of complex multipolarity.

The same author’s latest column in early June about how “India Is Irreplaceable Balancing Force In Global Systemic Transition” explained how Delhi decisively intervened after Moscow’s special operation to avert its partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on Beijing by becoming its valve from Western and Eastern pressure, which in turn preserved Russia’s strategic autonomy under these new international conditions. While the global polarization over this conflict reduces the chances of the jointly led Russian-Indian Neo-NAM becoming a force to be reckoned with anytime soon, the trappings of a third pole of influence are already apparent between them and Iran.

Even so, this emerging triple pole of influence between Russia, India, and Iran is still a far way’s off from what the Neo-NAM entails though it could still provide proof of Mr. Baru’s prediction that Great Powers will multi-align between themselves to maximize their strategic autonomy vis-a-vis the American and Chinese superpowers. It is with this incipient trend in mind what is now unfolding in Eurasia as India would do well to attempt its replication in the Indo-Pacific region with respect to ASEAN. To explain the reason behind this policy proposal, it’s enough to cite the opening remarks of the Singaporean Foreign Minister during mid-June’s special ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting with India.

Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan declared that “The sharpening superpower rivalry between the US and China has direct implications for all of us in Asia. These developments, if left unchecked, can threaten the old system of peace and stability, which we have been dependent on for the basis of our growth, development, and prosperity over many decades.” Although he didn’t employ Mr. Baru’s bi-multipolarity terminology, his acknowledgment of America and China as superpowers very closely aligns with that Indian thinker’s worldview and thus provides the geostrategic basis upon which ASEAN and that South Asian civilization-state can build their future relations.

Just like India decisively intervened to avert its Russian Eurasian partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on either the U.S. or Chinese superpowers in the newfound Age of Complexity that characterizes the present phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity since COVID-19 and the onset of Moscow’s special operation, so too can it do the same with its ASEAN Indo-Pacific partner as well. After all, ASEAN just like Russia doesn’t want to be coerced into becoming either superpower’s junior partner even if some of its members independently decided that choosing one or the other is in their objective national interests. As a whole, the bloc’s interests are best served by remaining neutral.

Nevertheless, it’s being increasingly forced to choose between the U.S. and China, which is in turn reducing its strategic autonomy and risks fracturing this fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region within which the full-spectrum paradigm changes associated with the Age of Complexity are rapidly converging. That outcome would destabilize this pivotal geo-economic space and lead to even more unpredictable consequences for the global systemic transition, perhaps even ultimately giving an edge to one of the superpowers and in turn endangering the grand strategic interests of Great Powers like Russia, India, and ASEAN (if one conceptualizes the bloc as whole as one like some do the EU).

For this reason, it is incumbent on India to do its utmost to avert that scenario by replicating its policy towards Russia in ASEAN in order to jointly create a third of pole influence in the Indo-Pacific exactly as it’s actively attempting to do in Eurasia. The simultaneous attempt to facilitate tripolarity in the two most dynamic regions of the Eastern Hemisphere can be described as dual-tripolarity and should become the guiding principle upon which India’s grand strategy be formulated throughout the Age of Complexity. Its success would revolutionize the global systemic transition by resulting in complex multipolarity after India midwifes the transition to dual-tripolarity from bi-multipolarity.

To explain it more simply, India is the only great power with a dual geostrategic identity in the sense that it sits within both Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, meaning that nobody else other than this fiercely independent state has the capability to simultaneously lead tripolarity processes in its respective regions. Moreover, India enjoys excellent relations with Russia and ASEAN, sharing the desire to complementarily maximize their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to complex multipolarity that’s unfolding within the newfound Age of Complexity that emerged as a result of COVID-19 and Russia’s special operation.

Wrapping up this piece, all responsible stakeholders aspire to build a Multipolar World Order since the former system of unipolarity was unfair for the vast majority of humanity while the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase still doesn’t sufficiently meet the interests of most players. What’s needed is for International Relations to transition to tripolarity as soon as possible so that complex multipolarity can follow, after which the largest number of countries can have the greatest opportunities for safeguarding their strategic autonomy. India is uniquely positioned to bring this about and should thus prioritize it by considering the author’s grand strategic proposal of dual-tripolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Regime Change Operation Theory: Another Crack in Narratives

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“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a cardinal of propaganda or a propaganda technique often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Psychologists somehow call it as the “illusion of truth” effect. This actually sums up what is happening today in Pakistan. From foreign conspiracy to the cracked narrative of now Regime Change Operation, all has been illusion or delusional. Historically, Regime change is an ancient and special kind of intervention, the kind of intervention President Bush had in mind for Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Since World War II, regime change is exclusively quoted as toppling an existing regime that displeases the Superpower. The regime change phenomenon has been brought in the public domain repeatedly in the world and maybe that is the inspiration for PTI as well. In 2016, when ICIJ leaked 11.5 million files of Panama paper, Russians called it as “CIA Operation against Vladimir Putin”, in Pakistan it was called as a “Foreign conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif with an involvement of Establishment” and today, Imran Khan and his team continue to peddle this flawed narrative of a Regime Change Operation in the public domain without giving an iotia of evidence. Hence, it has become equally important today to dissect the difference of regime change in Pakistan and a constitutional No confidence motion. 

To begin this dissection, let us first analyze the capacity of CIA. Does CIA really have the capacity to contact, persuade and in other terms recruit 172 constitutionally elected MNAs along with 22 angry MNAs of the ruling party for a “Regime Change Operation”. You will be surprised to know this absurd logic by PTI that CIA has today recruited Jahangir Khan Tareen, Abdul Aleem Khan, Nadeem Afzal Chan and Yar Muhammad Rind?

Consider the amount of stakes United States has in the World Bank. It has a total of 2,925,790 votes. But if the US was planning a regime change operation in March 2022, why would the World bank disburse an amount of $529 million in February 2022. At the IMF, US has 831,401 votes. If the CIA was planning a ‘regime change’ in March 2022 why would the IMF which has so much of the US influence, distribute $1.053 billion in February 2022? On February 4, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) received $1.053 tranche of its three-year, $6 billion IMF loans. At the Asian Development Bank, the United States has subscribed 15.5% of the total capital and controls 12.75% of the votes. If again CIA was planning a ‘regime change operation’ in March 2022 why would the ADB disburse $461 million in February 2022? If United States was conspiring a regime change operation inside Pakistan, why was a US official invited to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation conference in Islamabad on March 21?

Imran Khan’s regime change theory has a huge evidence gap. Since he claims that there is a proof of contacts between Pakistani members of Parliaments and Americans, why has no evidence been revealed? Can he give some other evidence to prove his regime change operation mantra? Only one more evidence, which he claims to be a threatening letter but that too was busted by the National Security Committee, highest forum of the country. Khan claims that the no-confidence vote was a plot by the United States to avenge his defiant trip to Moscow. But the Joint opposition has been thinking about and preparing for the no-confidence move for months. Even towards the end of last year, it was widely known that the opposition intended to make such a move. The no confidence vote had been anticipated for a long time before it was moved, so the fact that it happened only after the trip to Moscow does not imply that it was triggered by it.

Whatever happened in Pakistan is not a CIA driven regime change operation but in fact it is a constitutionally driven legal process of Vote of No Confidence. All relevant stakeholders of the country are on the same page that there was no Regime Change Operation. No such evidence has been found by Intelligence agencies of the country. However, Khan still believes on it. Is it an illusion or a reality? 

But remember the propaganda technique “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” and may be PTI believes the same while it continues to mislead the public to mint its political dividend.

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Bulldozing Dissent in India

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State brutality and hostility have emerged as the defining factors in BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party)  policy toward Indian Muslims. From mob lynching and punishment on beef consumption to imposing a ban on the ‘hijab’ in universities, BJP continues to find novel ways and means to target Muslim society and enforce the concept of Hindu supremacy in India. While deliberate marginalisation of Indian Muslims is not new and remains an important part of India’s policy towards its minorities, the intensity of this campaign is soaring with every passing day. 

Recently, two senior BJP members made disparaging remarks against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), brushing aside the sentiments of the state’s largest minority. The comments drew criticism from around the world, creating a diplomatic row for India.While PM Modi decided to remain silent on the issue, the concerned BJP members had to be suspended from the party given the intense backlash from several countries, especially the Gulf states.

On the other hand, the remarks also sparked a wave of anger in the Indian Muslim communities, who registered their grievances by holding protests on the streets in various parts of the state.  However, to deal with its own citizens, India resorted to using force and refused to let the Muslims protest peacefully, depriving them of their fundamental democratic rights. Amidst the demonstrations after Friday prayers, clashes between protesters and police broke out in several parts, the most notable one occurred in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Two teenagers lost their lives, and several were injured. The Indian police also arrested approximately 300 individuals taking part in the protests.  

The most concerning event that followed afterwards was bulldozing the houses of Muslim activists who were either present at the demonstrations or were apparently the organisers. The demolitions were justified on the pretext that they were illegal establishments. In reality, these criminal activities were done on the behest of the Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, who is an ardent RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) follower – the most projected political figure in BJP (after Narendra Modi) and a torchbearer of Hindutva politics.  

It has been observed that the frequency of the use of bulldozers to demolish personal property is increasing in Muslim-majority areas in India. CM Adityanath himself is considered the pioneer and advocate of this ‘bulldozer strategy’, which is now frequently being executed throughout India by other BJP leaders. His ardency with the idea of demolishing Muslim houses can be sensed from the fact that bulldozers are displayed at BJP rallies to demonstrate them as a symbol of state power. Mrityunjay Kumar,  Adityanath’s media advisor later tweeted a photo of a bulldozer with the caption, ‘Remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday,’ which conveys the government’s unapologetic stance on its actions and the intent to use such equipment without hesitation. 

Whats worse, the state machinery deliberately orchestrates the scenes of Muslim houses being turned to rubble to instil a fearful impact. Its purpose is to deter the Muslim communities from protesting against the ‘saffronized’ state. Such images are meant to signal that the state will not tolerate such kind of opposition in the BJP-led India and will not hesitate to exercise the use of force against such segments. The prime objective is to bulldoze their courage to stand against oppression in the future. 

Another way to look at this violence is the long-term dynamics of Indian politics. While it is apparent that Narendra Modi will contest the next Indian elections for BJP, it is fairly evident that an alternative leadership is preparing to succeed him in the future. The potential candidates are replicating his past machinations to strengthen their personal and political statures. Akin to Modi’s Gujarat massacre, his party members are recreating events that can bear similar impacts in order to emerge as radical leaders in accordance with BJP’s vision.  This includes intense and targeted verbal and physical attacks on Muslims. Hence, the use of force against Muslims will likely be a prominent factor for capitalising on the majoritarian Hindu vote bank.  

Lack of accountability, persistent silence of key leadership and the embedded political objectives are fanning dangerous flames in an already fraught environment for Muslims in India. The repressive attitude toward Indian Muslims has now been institutionalised at the state level and suggests that life will only worsen for them. India’s belligerent policy and confrontational actions will fuel further divisions in a society that has become extremely polarised along religious lines. Political interests are overshadowing national interests and the trend is likely to continue.

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