The Chinese in Pakistan

Spearhead Analysis – 23.04.2015

pak-china-friendshipThe Chinese President came calling thereby ending the suspense over his much delayed visit. He came with a large retinue of officials and corporation heads, and of course he did not come empty handed. So he came, he delivered and he won the hearts and minds of all Pakistanis across the board. The buzz words around his visit were — fast track, early harvest, kick start, one road-one belt, game changer — and each one of these is relevant and spot on. The significance of the visit is underlined by the enormous interest it has evoked all over the world and the undermining efforts it has unleashed from our Eastern neighbor and those they inspire.

Much has been written about the size of the package and the details of the wide spectrum of projects planned. What emerges is that it is a 46 billion dollar plus package and that it is a combination of assistance and investment. This should not come as a surprise except to those who were expecting hand-outs. The Chinese President summed it up when he said that ‘what we are doing for Pakistan we are doing for China’ — every country acts in its national interest. Most important is the fact that China is coming into infrastructure projects and this more than anything else stresses the confidence that China has in Pakistan and in the reality of Pakistan’s paradigm shifts in policies especially its counter terrorism policy that the President singled out for praise. The President also suggested a policy of peace in foreign relations thereby supporting Pakistan’s quest for stable bilateral relations with all its neighbors. Conflict, violence and economic uplift do not go together.

In a broader context the policy gives initial shape to the ‘one road-one belt’ vision — the road links to the Eurasian land mass and the belt of maritime linkages in south-east Asia and beyond. As a reaction to the US ‘pivot to Asia’ and the decline in US-Russia relations it must be noted that the Chinese ingress into Pakistan ties up with warming Sino-Russian relations and Russian-Pakistan relations as well as changed Pakistan-Afghanistan relations The impact of China’s strategic relationship with Pakistan has implications not just for South Asia but for Central Asia and Iran and by extension to the US. Pakistan’s efforts to forge a regional counter terror policy get a shot in the arm because of the convergence in China-Pakistan-Russian interests in Afghanistan. India in its pursuit of a wider and broader foreign policy needs to pause and relook at the opportunity to forge a stable relationship with Pakistan and give up the bogey of a China-Pakistan combined threat of some kind to its security. Logically Pakistan should be inducted into the SCO as well as the financial groupings taking place.

Pakistan should not underestimate the significance of the strategic relationship with China because this is not in any way counter to the US-Pakistan relationship. Pakistan needs to ensure that criticism based on misinformation does not undermine the China Pakistan joint ventures and nor should political bickering over routes and interprovincial rivalries be permitted to cloud the horizon. The Prime Minister has issued instructions for all issues to be resolved. This could be followed up with a white paper that lays out the details of all the projects envisaged as well as the enormous scope of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the opportunity for Pakistan to realize its potential. People need to understand the economic opportunities that hinterland connectivity and energy flows will unleash. Neither non-state actors nor any militant groups should be permitted to create internal instability or use Pakistani soil for cross border activity. Pakistan has been given a great opportunity to rise and with this opportunity come challenges that must be overcome through well thought out policies and full capacity for implementation. With its democracy strengthened and with the military in full support the political leadership can and must deliver.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)