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What Makes Pak-China Relations So Special, So Different and So Unique? By Mohammad Ali Zafar

Pakistan and China have been regarded as an all-weather friend due to the cordial and never-ending trust that binds the China-Pakistan relations. From the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state to the emergence of China as a communist state, Pakistan remained aloof from the Chines matters. At that time, Pakistan was struggling to mark its presence in the world arena so took little interest in what is the scenario in China. The absence of any clash makes these relations quite different and unique.

These statements depict the glories past with 60 years of relations of harmony, trust, and respect. Both states cooperated in various fields which include, economy, forming a strategic alliance, military ventures which are important to understand if one wants to understand the depth of what makes Pakistan’s relation with China so special and so unique.

During the cold war period, Pakistan joined US bloc to build its military capacity to counter India’s anti-Pakistan stance. As a result, Pakistan signed a defense pact with the United States and eventually joined SEATO and CENTO. Both of these organisations were made to counter communism, and Pakistan was part of it. Despite Pakistan’s inference in these organisations, China didn’t let this act to antagonise the relations- China understood that the reason why Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO was an economic move rather than an anti-communist move which depicts how China views Pakistan, and how crucial Pakistan is for China.

The real beginning of China-Pakistan relations emerged during the Sino-India conflict where from border skirmishes to war, Pakistan saw its arch-rival losing a battle from the military might of China. Right after the war china came closer towards Pakistan to strengthen relations which will help China to build close diplomatic ties. This was meant to diplomatically isolate India. Vividly, Pakistan responded by entering into border agreement with China in 1963. The first Sino-Pakistan trade agreement was signed in Karachi to improve economic ties and create trade opportunities in response Pakistan called her vote for the admission of China into U.N

Pakistan did not just reconsider her relation with China due to the 1962 war, but another perspective is that after the 1962 war– the US and Britain came in support of India to build military potential against China which was again not in the interest of Pakistan; This let Pakistan to further improve its relations with China. China supported Pakistan’s claim over Kashmir and in response, Pakistan supported China’s claim over Taiwan.

Another face is during Sino-Pakistan relations that brought both states into close relations was the US sanctions on Pakistan in the 1970s which created the opportunity for China to mend its ties with Pakistan and it also saw a shift in the economy and military dependence of Pakistan from the US towards China.

It is the only relation of Pakistan where Pakistan didn’t face many hurdles to achieve its desires interest from its neighbour. China being a great power is of vital interest to Pakistan. During the nuclearization era, China was the first to regard Pakistan’s aim to acquire WMDs as a legitimate move against any aggression. China even supported Pakistan by providing uranium for WMDs. Even at the IAEA conference in Vienna over nuclear and arms control, China supported Pakistan’s standpoint of procuring nuclear arsenal.

Economically, China has supported Pakistan, which propped Pakistan’s military and economic capacity. In 1974, China sent around 60 MIG-19 fighter jets and around 150 tanks which were part of the economic and military aid of around $300 million. China gifted the Karakoram highway to Pakistan, which is of vital significance for bilateral trade between both states. This economic cooperation is of serious concern to other regional actors, who hold the close relations between both states as against their interest.

Moreover, the economics show that around 60% of China’s total arms sales to the world was sent to Pakistan– which depicts the amount of interdependence that exists between China and Pakistan. Another point which is worth mentioning is the naval providence of Pakistan which was uplifted by China due to the addition of submarines and frigates. China and Pakistan have even manufactured AL-Khalid Tank which adds to the military cards of Pakistan. Cooperation in the military domain has benefited Pakistan to continue its arms struggle against India.

Few grievances that are worth citing include, the attack of Chinese citizens in 2004, the 2007 Lal Masjid siege which was a major stained point in the relations but was countered by Pakistan by starting counter-terrorism operations and ISI shared data with Chinese officials to prevent any doubt regarding the safety issues of Chinese citizens in Pakistan. Furthermore, A drastic development was observed when Raheel Shareef former COAS visited China in 2015, which opened strategic doors for both states. Soon after ensuring the amicable atmosphere in Pakistan– after zerb –e –azab– development of CPEC started, which led to an increase in foreign direct investment in Pakistan.

The depth of Pakistan and China’s relations in the current era is all focused on the future of CPEC, which is the largest mega project in the history of the two states. It represents the symbol of ‘Pak-Chine Dosti’ it was signed between ex-PM Nawaz and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in 2015. At this time, relations reached an upper notch as seen from the remark by Xi Jinping that “this is my first visit, but it seems that I have been here earlier as well”. The aim is to link Gawadar to Xinjiang through railway and highways; Million dollar projects are in process across this rout including pipeline projects for oil and gas transport— China is helping Pakistan built Gawadar to reach high standards. Overall the cost of construction will be around 62 billion dollars. This project holds great strategic relevance and will help Pakistan to overcome its energy crisis and other concerns such as lack of infrastructure, unemployment, lack of trade, and other similar concerns. It will open trade routes for Pakistan towards the Middle East and Africa.

Xi Jinping’s fabled project so far is the belt and road initiative which will leave a legacy for Xi Jinping historical legacy. Pakistan’s CPEC is the most invested project which is part of BRI. This project is of vital significance for China and for which it has the backing of Pakistan. The relations cannot be strained in the coming years.

Summing up, both states are great nations with a rich history in the past and have the potential to create great history, together, in the future. Sino-pak relations have been ideal if compared with Pakistan’s relations with other neighbours. The strength of these relations lies in the quality of interactions that exists between these two states. The cordial relations of Pakistan and China will be subject to test in the present global environment when China wants to emerge as a global power to defend its status and viewpoint against the liberal international order set by the US.

Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/671811/what-makes-pak-china-relations-so-special-so-different-and-so-unique/

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