Of all Pakistan’s bordering states, the relations with China are the friendliest and closest. With the approval of the “China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”, the relations of both countries have progressed to a new level and surprisingly this change is greeted by the other regional players like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and Iran due to the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan.
This fresh chapter in relations started in May 2013 with the official visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Pakistan and the formal suggestion of “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” Model. Consequently, officials and leaders of both countries exchanged their visits. Finally, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in April 2015, the plan was officially confirmed, comprising of the ratification of 51 Memorandums of Understanding between both countries, the initiation of eight projects, and the beginning of five collaborative energy schemes.
This novel level of relations not only includes accustomed energy plans and infrastructure developments, but also included economic, social, technical, and even cultural collaboration. For example, Pakistan and China have planned bilateral interactions in electronic media.
The establishment of a branch by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Lahore; China-Pakistan Joint Cotton Bio-Tech Laboratory by the departments of science & technology of both republics; NUML International Center of Education by Xinjiang University& National University of Modern Languages (NUML), and China Culture Center in Pakistan.
If these ingenuities are fruitful, relations between the two countries will become more meticulously entwined at all levels, from top-level military and political relations, spreading to the full array of connections and dealings at each level of society.
Currently, accomplishments from China-Pakistan cooperation projects are concentrated on four major sectors: energy projects, Gwadar Port, industrial cooperation and transport infrastructure. Main energy ventures consist of construction of a 300 megawatt solar power plant by Zonergy (A Chinese Company), and efforts have already initiated on more than half of the remaining sixteen scheduled energy schemes.
In terms of transport infrastructure, renovation and upgrading mechanisms on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) within Pakistan are proceeding, and the construction of the Karachi-Lahore Motorway also began in March 2016. For the development of Gwadar Port, in November 2015, Pakistan tendered over 280 hectares of land use rights to a Chinese corporation for a period of forty-three years, and construction on new amenities is currently happening.
Finally, Chinese developments in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor engage more than 6,000 Pakistani personnel, presenting that the close connection between Pakistan and China has already progressed from the policy statements to the project implementation phase. The volume of capitals involved, the complexity of the interactions, and the figure of persons contributing are exceptional in relationship between the two countries.
To comprehend China’s vision of Pakistan from the perception of international political affairs, we must interpret Pakistan’s intertwining connections with the United States, the Arab World and the China itself. After the armed intrusions in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the struggles of the United States to reinstate the regional directive in the Middle East suffered a chief obstruction.
The fiscal, human and material expenditures steadily worn internal backing for military involvement in the area and resulting in the rise of Islamic State in 2014, there was a tough upsurge of civic belief in the United States supporting removal from the Middle East with U.S. pacification struggles in Afghanistan and support for Pakistan came under increasing investigation.
For this purpose, the United States has engaged itself in regenerating the role of negotiator for Chinese involvement in Afghanistan, mostly accepting China’s greater role. This drift reveals U.S. anxiety that if efforts to restructure the order in Afghanistan are not continued, there will be a supremacy vacuity in Afghanistan, instigating the Taliban, the Islamic State, and even pro-Pakistan radicals to shape up dogmatic authority.
Thus, if China can efficiently share the liability with the U.S. and apply impact over Pakistan, it should be appropriate to calm down the present political condition in Afghanistan. From China’s viewpoint, Afghanistan and Pakistan act as a topographical center between South & Central Asia, signifying a strategic place for the growth of “One Belt and One Road” as well as a path to the Arabian Sea & Indian Ocean that is not controlled by India. More significantly, the Chinese regime can use its influence over Afghanistan& Pakistan to hold the dissemination of Islamic radicalism into Xinjiang.
From the facts mentioned above we discover that China is now involved in an exceptional close mutual cooperation with Pakistan across many areas. From a national, regional, or international political outlook, China has indicated its inclination to continue firming its relations with Pakistan. Except India, regional powers such as the United States, Arab countries, and Iran, are optimistic about China taking obligation for sustaining regional order in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So, for the probable future, China-Pakistan relations as well as the growth of Chinese influence in South& Central Asia will advance further as China follows the “One Belt and One Road” plan, progressively substituting the U.S. subjugated status-quo. Subsequently his rise to supremacy, Xi Jinping has made key regulations to China’s international strategy.
China is no longer ready to perform a passive role, and has pursued great power prominence consistent with its own power that can impact the international structure. CPEC is the crown jewel in the new Pakistan fiscal model because Pakistan has the prospect to perform autonomously without the western guidance particularly the US power.
Iran has a stake in the CPEC through the suggestion to connect the Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline with China, which has been designated as a “collective importance” between the three countries. The beginning of CPEC and China’s support for numerous reconstruction plans in Afghanistan has not only made India vary but also take on political and non-conventional approaches to disrupt and unsettle the completion process of CPEC.
Of the potential external associates, Russia is placed to be a beneficiary of the new trade path and thus makes a natural target for support. Its participation would be a way to counter the Indo-US tie. The competitive nature of the US may even instigate Russia to jump into the dispute at some stage. The global impacts of the CPEC are extremely significant and both countries can reach the new horizons if they deal strategically & politically with all external and internal threats successfully.
Ms. Afsheen Zeeshan
Author is finalist for UNDP’s N-Peace Award 2015 in Untold Stories category and visiting faculty member of National Defence University, Islamabad