To China With Love
From Pakistan’s perspective, China has a distinguished history of maintaining friendly and peaceful relations—which lead to the development of economy and infrastructure as well as augmentation of people-to-people contacts—with not only Pakistan but the neighbouring countries as well. China has always been observed as a country poised to make peaceful moves towards countries it has diplomatic relations with, under the banner of “win-win cooperation”. With Pakistan, China has established ties for long. “Pak-China friendship,” as once quoted by Shahbaz Sharif (former Chief Minister of Pakistan’s largest Punjab province, “is higher than Himalayas, deeper than ocean, sweeter than honey and stronger than steel.”
Since the bilateral relations have witnessed a huge boost through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China has, generally, been in Pakistanis’ good books. They regard China as an epitome of true friendship working on the principles of respect and trust. Their love for Chinese community in its entirety grows day by day, as China does not leave Pakistan in testing times. Though they understand that such a nice favour does not come without any interests of China, yet they thank God for having a strong ally on their side.
China indeed has proved to be a most-trusted friend of Pakistan in the international arena. It has not only continued advocating Pakistan’s stance in the wake of Pakistan-India confrontation over Kashmir, but also helped Pakistan, through its offices, to call the attention of international community towards India’s bellicose and belligerent persecution of Kashmiris—China’s help made UNSC sessions on Kashmir possible. Since the revocation of articles 370 and 35-A by the Modi-led fascist government in India, China has been, in its fighting spirit, helping ignite the worldwide debate on the human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), hinting at the manifestation of its unflinching support for Pakistan and its interests.
The fact cannot be denied that Pakistan always sought China’s assistance whenever it found itself in financial and economic distress. Not to mention the unilateral financial assistance provided to Pakistan in the wake of national lockdown prompted by Covid-19, China has lent its helping hand to its fragile neighbour when it was lately forced by Saudi Arabia to repay the loan, as a result of the friction over Pakistan’s attempt to mending up fences with Turkey and Malaysia as an alternative front of Muslims nations. Without any delay, China bailed out Pakistan with the provision of $1.5 billion to free its foreign policy out of the shackles of Saudi Arabia.
Although a lot of unsuccessful attempts have been made to bring divide between China and Pakistan, trying to plunge Pakistan under misunderstanding of China’s intentions to control Gwadar port in future, both the countries have, time and again, reaffirmed their commitment to the mega project. Alice Wells, the then US Secretary of State, when on a visit to Pakistan in 2020, stated that CPEC smacks of debt trap Pakistan has been mired in, and under it, China has ulterior motive to wreck Pakistan’s economy at the time of loan repayments; Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing spurned the allegations, showing astonishment over her statement of higher tariff at power plants established under CPEC. Pakistani community, too, assimilates the fact that unlike China, America has failed to help out Pakistan in difficult times.
Although on my side of the border, there is high community spirit about China, yet they have allowed misgivings about China’s unconditional help to fester in their mind. However, they need to take a cursory glance at China’s position in global politics. Given the US influence over global politics, China has been sinking into the diplomatic mire that it, so to speak, has to come out of. On the one hand, China has to confront with India as a potential threat to its interests and influence, as well as its borders near Galwan Valley where likelihood of a military tussle has been high. On the other hand, it has to face up to American influence raging in the international community to strategically contain China’s progress, through whopping investment therein, in the realms of technology and economy.
China’s economic success and regional influence must never be taken lightly by the United States. Notwithstanding the Trump’s administration has gone now, the newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden too is not expected to go lenient on China. The US is poised to invest in India’s technology and economy to counterbalance China’s strategic objectives under the BRI project, in which CPEC holds a significant position.
At such a time, having Pakistan on its side is critical for China, given the dividends accruing from the CPEC on its completion. The CPEC provides China with direct access to the Indian Ocean, shortening the distance between the western China and Arabian Sea from 13000 km to just 3000, and thereby cutting the transit time from 45 days to only 10. With Gwadar port being 400km away from the Strait of Hormuz, the CPEC puts China at its doorstep, and could culminate in elimination of the Strait of Malacca route, through which nearly 80 percent of China’s imports pass. CPEC can also be a political influencer for China as it aims to bring about regional economic and trade connectivity. Iran’s willingness to join the BRI can allow China to extend its dominance over the Middle East and influence decisions regarding the US. Moreover, in order to press India, CPEC offers China the possibility of naval presence close to India’s western coastline, helping it pursue its fabled “String of Pearls” strategy through Gwadar port.
Given such staggering significance of the CPEC project for China in the given extenuating circumstances, it will not be difficult to justify China’s financial as well as political help to Pakistan. However, in view of the enduring goodwill gesture to their homeland, Pakistanis realize China’s help as a result of prolonged, true friendship, without boasting of capitalizing on the strategic location of Pakistan.
Although a strong bond of friendship between Pakistan and China has been forged for years, there is a little progress in the realms of people-to-people contacts. No doubt, the friendship blossomed into marriage between the peoples of both sides and the exchange of the universities’ graduate programs between the countries are a manifestation of the connection, however, this needs to be further encouraged. China should provide the students living in humble circumstances in Pakistan with fully- funded scholarships. Bilateral competitions and events should be arranged. Tourists on both sides must be facilitated to feel a sense of belonging. This is the way by which both nations can enjoy unrivalled mutual cooperation and coordination. With sincere prayers, I am putting the final note to my write-up that cooperation at every level and in every realm should continue unabated.