The historical perspective of the Pakistan-China friendship is crucial to understanding the significance of their relations in the context of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.
The country’s support for Pakistan’s regional and global concerns and investment in Pakistan’s economy has significantly impacted its foreign policy.
Pakistan’s Foreign Policy is focused on advancing its national interests and strengthening its global reputation. The country plays a pivotal role in regional and international politics. Essential components of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy include:
- Fostering economic growth through regional and international trade initiatives.
- Preserving tight ties with key countries like China and the United States.
- Attempting to settle disputes with neighboring India.
China has a complicated and dynamic role in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. Its influence in international politics continues to rise, and its effects on the country’s foreign policy are increasingly significant.
Chinese diplomats carefully choose their words for referring to the connection with Pakistan as “all-weather” to stress its exclusivity. Chinese officials also refer to Pakistan as an “Iron brother” to emphasize their confidence in the long-term viability of their mutual bonds.
We can investigate the intricate dynamics of China’s impact on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and analyze its implications in four categories:
1. The Diplomatic Element
2. Financial Perspective
3. Security Outlook
4. Impact on Global and Regional Stability
The Diplomatic Element
Diplomacy is a principal element of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan and China share similar interests and are willing to strengthen their partnership. Pakistan sees its ties with China as the foundation of its foreign strategy.
China is the only influential country that firmly supports Pakistan’s efforts to protect its independence and sovereignty. The nation is committed to strategic collaboration with Pakistan despite its complex relationship with the United States.
China’s diplomatic support has been crucial for Pakistan on several issues. It opposes NSG membership, FATF listing, and sanctions against Islamabad. It has also repeatedly backed Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.
China acknowledges that Kashmir is an India-Pakistan dispute. It advocates using the UN Charter, bilateral agreements, and UNSC decisions to reach a peaceful conclusion.
China also opposed India’s unilateral decision to abolish Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. Its support has improved Pakistan’s morale and strengthened its negotiating position in regional and international discussion forums.
Pakistan also supports China in international forums, including the Human Rights Council and the Xinjiang, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and South China Sea disputes. Due to mutual trust, both countries help each other in achieving national goals.
Pakistan was historically the first Muslim country to recognize “New China.” In 1951, Mao Tse Tung instructed his foreign ministry to cultivate ties with Pakistan.
Mao urged his second Ambassador in 1956 to focus on Pakistan, referring to it as “China’s southwestern doorstep.” The first high-level meeting between the two prime ministers occurred in Bandung in 1955.
Pakistan assured China that its participation in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) would not be an impediment. China affirmed its desire to strengthen ties with Pakistan.
During Premier Zhou En Lai’s 1956 visit to India, China affirmed its support for Pakistan’s Kashmiri position and hoped to develop a genuine partnership with Pakistan.
China turned down Jawaharlal Nehru’s desire to travel to Srinagar, demonstrating its commitment to Pakistan’s Kashmiri position.
Pakistan enthusiastically supported China’s admission to the United Nations (UN) in 1971. It also opposed the United States’ proposal for dual representation of China in September 1971.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, China did warn Pakistan about India’s involvement. The conflict between India and Pakistan at the time was centered on the status of East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).
China had been a Pakistani ally and was concerned about India’s movements in the region. It communicated with Pakistan through various means, including diplomatic channels and the media.
The Chinese government has also issued statements expressing concern about the situation in East Pakistan and urging a peaceful settlement to the dispute.
Despite China’s warning, the battle between India and Pakistan escalated, and East Pakistan eventually gained independence, creating Bangladesh.
The conflict had significant geopolitical ramifications, particularly in the context of the Cold War. It also had a hard impact on Indo-Pak-Sino ties.
In 1972, China exercised its first veto to support Pakistan during Bangladesh’s application to join the United Nations. China’s condition for joining was the safe release of Pakistani POWs from India.
China has also helped Pakistan to counter India’s influence in South Asia by supporting Pakistan’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The two countries regularly exchange high-level visits to enhance their diplomatic ties.
Pakistan’s Foreign Policy has been significantly influenced by its economic partnership with China, particularly in the funds, energy, and infrastructure sectors.
Pakistan is facing a severe financial crisis and is in dire need of funds to keep its economy afloat. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently refused to loan Pakistan.
The Pakistani government has tabled a finance bill worth 170 billion rupees to secure funds from the IMF and overcome its economic crisis in February 2023.
Fortunately, China has stepped in to relieve Pakistan’s financial woes by lending $700 million to Islamabad. It has helped boost Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, which have reportedly improved to a six-week high of nearly $4 billion.
Chinese assistance to Pakistan is a welcome relief for the country struggling with a weak economy and high debt. It has also made substantial investments in Pakistan over the past decade, demonstrating a growing interest in the country’s welfare.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), launched in 2015, is a crucial project. The country has the potential to boost Pakistan’s economy significantly.
China has invested $62 billion through the CPEC to support Pakistan’s infrastructure growth, including roads, bridges, ports, power plants, railways, and pipelines.
This investment is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to establish a network of trade channels linking China to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The CPEC gives China access to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, which are strategically important for China. The Karakoram Highway is the primary route for the CPEC, connecting the Xinjiang region of China with Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan.
This road and other infrastructure and transportation initiatives have been renovated. It has increased trade and investment between China, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
The CPEC will interconnect landlocked Central Asian Republics to Gwadar and Karachi, boosting regional trade and investment. Pakistan’s government has expressed zeal for the CPEC and its potential to increase investment and job prospects for the nation.
The CPEC is Pakistan’s first significant international initiative. It solidifies China’s support for Pakistan’s economy. Westerners see the Sino-Pak relationship as a pragmatic and geopolitical alliance that benefits both countries.
Pakistan’s participation in the BRI has strengthened its economic ties with China. The CPEC is a critical element of this partnership. The investment in infrastructure and energy has the prospect of transforming Pakistan’s economy and boosting trade.
The CPEC will also help overcome some of the barriers to employment Pakistan has faced. Pakistan has a strategic position as an intersection for China, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and the CPEC is a significant step towards capitalizing on this position.
The economic partnership with China has the potential to benefit all regions and create opportunities for trade and investment.
Pakistan seeks to capitalize on its strategic position as a junction for China, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, increasing trade and investment that will benefit all regions.
Impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) aims to connect Pakistan’s Gwadar port to the Chinese province of Xinjiang. It intends to create new commercial opportunities for both nations.
The project has helped Pakistan resolve its energy crisis by creating massive energy projects and installing pollution-reduction technologies.
Before CPEC, this deficit cost Pakistan $4 billion (S$5.38 billion). Pakistan is diversifying its renewable sources by executing massive energy projects swiftly.
As part of the second phase, collaboration is expected across various sectors, including agriculture, oil and gas, tourism, and education. The project prioritizes environmental protection, transparency, and debt sustainability.
However, the project has raised security concerns, particularly with India, and the US is apprehensive about China’s growing influence in the region.
An essential element of the Sino-Pak relationship is military support. Pakistan and China signed a civilian nuclear development treaty in 1986. This agreement safeguarded Pakistan’s nuclear power facilities with the IAEA.
The Sino-Pak ties were strengthened significantly by China’s active support of Pakistan during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict.
The conflict significantly improved Pakistan’s opinion of China. The US lost all goodwill in Pakistan by suspending military supplies. During the war, China’s utilization of urgent military supplies enabled Pakistan to overcome the regional imbalance.
China assisted Pakistan’s heavy industry in Taxila in the late 1960s. This alliance was a significant relief after the US sanctioned Pakistan after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989 and France declined to offer a nuclear reprocessing facility.
The two countries collaborate in the production of the JF-17 fighter jet. They worked together on space technologies. China upgraded Pakistan’s nuclear weapon delivery systems.
Additionally, it provided Shaheen-class medium- and short-range ballistic missiles to the Pakistani Army. Currently, Pakistan’s Air Force and Navy deploy weaponry manufactured in China.
Pakistan’s Air Force uses Airborne Early Warning and Control radar to identify aircraft, Chinese interceptors, and advanced training aircraft. Sino-Pak cooperation produced the light strike aircraft K-8 Karakorum.
Recently, China delivered its first J-10CE fighter jets to Pakistan, equipped with a Mirage-V-like “green-blue” camouflage scheme.
The J-10CE is Pakistan’s “most capable” Chinese-origin fighter jet, featuring advanced avionics and weapons systems.
It features advanced stealth technology, high maneuverability, and sophisticated avionics systems. The acquisition of J-10CE jets would enhance Pakistan’s air defense capabilities and increase its deterrence against potential adversaries.
It would also deepen the strategic partnership between China and Pakistan, which have close economic and military ties.
Pakistan has been struggling with terrorism for several decades. China also has been a crucial partner in Pakistan’s efforts to combat this threat.
It has shared intelligence and provided logistical support for counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan. Its support for Pakistan’s national security has also had regional and global security implications.
Pakistan’s security challenges are not limited to its borders, and its stability is critical for regional security. China’s support for Pakistan has helped to stabilize the region and prevent the spread of terrorism and extremism.
Implications on Global and Regional Sustainability
Pakistan’s Foreign Policy has long been driven by regional security concerns, particularly with India. China’s assistance has been critical in addressing this issue in Pakistan.
South Asia is home to almost 25% of the world’s population, and economic interdependence and international trade rely on its distinctive topography and resource abundance.
Unfortunately, South Asian countries have minor economic cooperation due to conflicts, such as the hostility between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. This mutual distrust has failed to confront poverty, climate change, and food security.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was expected to assist in significant growth for smaller South Asian states, but prideful rivalries have led to dysfunction in the institution.
The India-China border deadlock further complicates matters, with India blaming the Pak-Sino collaboration for destabilizing regional peace.
However, Pakistan has made substantial efforts to normalize relations with India since its inception. India could have joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to serve regional interests.
But its rivalry for power and pointless arms races caused geopolitical asymmetry in South Asia. The recent addition of an unacceptable risk level to the protracted attrition conflict makes this even more urgent.
China and Pakistan emphasized a bilateral or multilateral conflict settlement framework is necessary for regional peace and security.
The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has also heightened fear and instability in the region. China and Pakistan agree that Afghanistan must be handled delicately to prevent further regional instability.
Both countries stressed the necessity of accelerating international stabilizing efforts and drafting a regional agreement for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan with the help of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Central Asian countries.
Additionally, they encouraged the United States to assist in preventing the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy and the UN from coordinating development assistance.
However, the Sino-Pak ties have caused concern for the United States, which fears China’s expanding influence in South Asia and its repercussions for regional stability.
The United States supports regional connectivity and economic engagement but unfairly and inconsistently pressures Pakistan to quit the CPEC.
Reportedly, the United States intends to attain the same objectives as CPEC through the C5+1 and Quadrilateral arrangements, which include the United States, Pakistan, Central Asia, and Afghanistan.
The Sino-Pak relationship is a complex and significant alliance that has shaped Pakistan’s foreign policy and impacted regional and global sustainability.
The coalition is implanted in shared values and ambitions, with both countries working towards peaceful conflict settlement and rejecting hegemony.
China and Pakistan have also partnered to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, including efforts to encourage North Korea and the international community to engage in dialogue.
The Sino-Pak relationship has been shaped by security concerns, resulting in extensive collaborations across various sectors.
The two countries collaborate to advance their respective interests in regional and international venues, focusing on countering India’s rise as a regional power and reducing the influence of the United States and other Western countries.
In foreign affairs, Pakistan sees China as rational and moderate and a reliable ally whose objectives are consistent with Pakistan’s objectives.
The Sino-Pak relationship has a long history of “all-weather friendliness,” marked by economic cooperation, military aid, and mutual support on international concerns.
The vocabulary used in official conversations and papers between the two countries over the years best reflects the historical evolution of this alliance.
The friendship between China and Pakistan is driven by vision and values and is now firmly rooted in society. Media, civil society, and intellectuals have greatly enhanced ties between the two countries.
From Pakistan’s Foreign Policy perspective, Sino-Pak relations are of the utmost importance. China’s investment in Pakistan’s economy and its advocacy for Pakistan’s regional and global problems have particularly affected its foreign policy.
Despite persistent challenges in the region, the Sino-Pak alliance is a diplomatic silver lining that will have a lasting, positive impact on stability and security in the region.