Pakistan - China Strategic Ties and CPEC
“Deeper than the deepest sea, higher than Himalayas, sweeter than honey, and stronger than the strongest steel”, this is the phrase which is widely used to shed light upon Sino-Pakistan relations. This notion speaks volumes of the intimate relations between the two.
The course of Pak-China ties has seen little lows and more highs. In international relations there are neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests. But China and Pakistan can rightly be called as all-weather and time-tested friends.
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Pakistan has time and again stood by China whenever Beijing has needed its support. It endorses China’s stance on Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang issues and pursues “One China” policy above-board. In November 2014 during a meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that we will help China to eradicate militants from Xinjiang, a far Western region in China. While on numerous occasions Islamabad has advocated Chinese standpoint on South China Sea disputes.
Likewise, China has always been Pakistan’s biggest proponent. It supports Pakistan’s stance on issue of Kashmir and at times has condemned India’s wicked aggressions in the valley. During 1965 war, it openly supported Pakistan diplomatically. Beijing also vetoed Bangladesh’s application for membership of the United Nation in 1972 on the grounds that it was not repatriating 195 Pakistani soldiers (POW); Dhaka termed them war criminals and had made up mind to put them on trial. The Chinese veto coerced Bangladesh’s government to release Pakistani soldiers. Moreover, China was one of the last countries to recognize Bangladesh. In 2015 Beijing blocked the New Delhi’s move in United Nations for taking action against Islamabad as Pakistani court released Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi whom India claims to be the mastermind of Mumbai terror attacks. Recently in 2016 China again halted another move by India in the United Nations Security Council which aimed to put the name of a Pakistani citizen in UN sanctions list. Apart from the diplomatic support, China has also been bestowing upon Pakistanis experts technological, scientific, and professional skills.
It is better to teach someone how to earn money rather than giving him any; this is the essence of Sino-Pak tie-up. Where other friends like USA are granting us aid, China is helping us to become self-reliant. Pakistan designed and manufactured JF17-thunder aircraft in collaboration with China which we can produce indigenously by ourselves since 2003. Soon Pakistan will become one of the few countries which export aircrafts as many African countries including Egypt have shown interest in buying these jet fighters.
The Pak-China military relations started in 1966 as Beijing provided Islamabad military assistance during a critical time when USA had imposed an embargo on military sales. This led to the establishment of a Pak-China strategic alliance in 1971. Since then China has been providing Pakistan technological and scientific expertise especially in defense areas. The Heavy Industries Taxila was established with the help of China in 1971 that now furnishes heavy equipment to Pak-army which includes among the other armaments Tank Al-Khalid and Tank Al-Zarar. In the early 1990s when US slapped military and economic sanctions on Pakistan after exploiting its services in Afghan war- proving itself once more to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing- again China stood by Pakistan which further strengthened their mutual relations. The two countries signed Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-neighbourly Relations in April 2005 which took Pak-China ties to high-level strategic dialogues.
At the same time Pak-China trade volume has reached 18.9 billion US dollars that shows the flourishing economic relations between the two. They started their genuine mutual economic engagement after Preferential Trade Agreement in 2003 followed by the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement on business in goods which was signed in 2006 and implemented in 2007.
The recent endeavor of the two countries known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a gigantic milestone in the course of their mutual relationship. Projects associated with CPEC contain network of roads, railways, and pipelines. It also contains energy, industrial and other infrastructure projects.
The CPEC will prove a game-changer by giving rise to large scale trade and, therefore, will bring progress and prosperity to Pakistan. According to experts the Chinese investments will increase our GDP approximately by 15%. The economic and commercial condition will improve, leading to the creation of jobs and helping in eradication of unemployment and poverty.
Pakistan should deal all those issues prudently which might prove detrimental to CPEC projects. The concerns of the Baluchistan need to be addressed forthwith, as the Baloch insurgents would most likely fly in the face of CPEC. They have attacked Chinese projects and the construction personnel in the past as well, and they will now make efforts to not let CPEC hit its stride. The curve of militancy extends from Xinjiang to Gawadar which serves as a potential threat to the economic corridor. Pakistan has already announced the formation of dedicated CPEC force consisting of ten thousand security personnel which if needed should be increased and be made competent enough to provide full protection to foreign workers. It should also be capable enough to make the trade routes safe and secure thoroughly.
CPEC has already been made contentious because of the alleged changes in the original plan by the federal government. Opposition parties accuse government of the favoured treatment along the eastern route. It’s the responsibility of the federal government to address the reservations of all the provinces regarding the accusations that the economic benefits of CPEC have been diverted to Punjab. Complete details of CPEC projects should be made public so that misgivings are done away with. CPEC cries out for the full support of all political parties and provinces. The government should deal all the challenges ideally and must make every possible effort to achieve objectives of the CPEC. It is a golden opportunity which we can’t afford to lose.
The writer can be reached at SirajShawa@gmail.com
By Siraj Shawa