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Old Wednesday, October 19, 2005
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Lightbulb Future of relations with China

By Javid Husain

‘CHINA-PAKISTAN relationship is coming to an end?’ was the provocative title of the paper presented by a Chinese scholar at a seminar on Pakistan-China relations, recently organized by the Area Study Centre, Far East & South East Asia, University of Sindh, Jamshoro where this writer also had the opportunity to make a presentation.

Mercifully, the paper by the Chinese scholar concluded that the Pakistan-China traditional friendship was not coming to an end. However, the relationship was confronted by challenges and opportunities in the changing regional and global scenario with the latter overwhelming the former.

Consequently in the post-Cold War scenario, it had changed to “qualified support” based on strategic factors as against “entente” between selfless and traditional friends during the Cold War era.

I find it interesting that Chinese scholars are examining the future directions of Pakistan-China relations, instead of assuming, as many of us in Pakistan tend to do mistakenly, that Pakistan-China friendship is there to stay forever unaffected by changing circumstances and strategic realities. The occasion also provides an opportunity to revisit this relationship with a view to prognosticating its likely future course.

The history of Pakistan-China relations shows that they have already passed through three distinct phases. Phase I, spanning the period from 1950 to 1961, was marked by normal bilateral relations lacking the friendship and warmth of later years. The reasons for the lack of warmth in Pakistan-China relations for about a decade after the establishment of diplomatic relations are not difficult to fathom.

Pakistan, a few years after its independence, joined the western camp through its membership of the Baghdad Pact/Cento and Seato as well as by signing bilateral security agreements with the US. China, on the other hand, was a strong critic of the western bloc whom it accused of harbouring imperialistic and hegemonistic tendencies. It was natural, therefore, that Sino-Pakistan relations during this period lacked the depth of the later years.

Phase II of Pakistan-China relations, which was marked by close friendship and deep warmth and cordiality, began in 1962 with the commencement of border negotiations and continued until 1980. During this period, China extended resolute political support and generous military and economic assistance to Pakistan. One need only recall Chinese support to Pakistan in the 1965 Pakistan-India war to get a flavour of this period. China also extended support to the struggle of the Kashmiri people for the exercise of their right of self-determination as stated in the joint communique issued after Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s visit to China in May 1976.

The third phase in Pakistan-China relations began roughly around 1980 with the emergence of a pragmatic leadership in China under Deng Xiaoping and continues till today. With this phase, Pakistan-China friendship entered a mature phase in which the two sides, while maintaining warm friendly relations and close cooperation in diverse fields based on the convergence of their strategic interests, were aware of both the potential and limitations of their relationship.

China under Deng Xiaoping adopted in late 1970s the slogans of development at home and peace abroad as the supreme Chinese national objectives. In pursuance of the objective of the maintenance of peace on its borders, China undertook negotiations for the settlement of border disputes with the Soviet Union and then India. In fact, China adopted a conscious policy of avoiding involvement in any major armed conflict by pursuing a low risk foreign policy which it continues to follow till today.

These changes in China’s internal and external policies could not but affect Pakistan-China relations. Consequently, during the 1980s, there was some dilution of the Chinese support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. China also stopped giving grants to Pakistan on the plea that being a developing country, it could not afford to do so. Nevertheless, Pakistan-China friendship remained strong. The period also witnessed Pakistan-China cooperation in resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The victory of the West in the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought about a radical transformation of the global strategic environment. The United States emerged as the sole super power. China now perceives a threat to its security from the US because of the latter’s global hegemonic designs and policy of containing China rather than Russia. Both China and Russia, therefore, have been gravitating towards each other.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the joint communique issued at Moscow on July 2, 2005, after the summit meeting between Presidents Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin denounced “the aspiration for monopoly and domination in international affairs” and called for an end to “attempts to divide nations into leaders and those being led.” In August 2005, the two countries launched their largest joint military exercise in modern history to send a political signal to Washington.

The Sino-Indian dialogue, driven by a different set of strategic and economic considerations, has also picked up speed culminating in Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in April 2005 when the two countries agreed to establish an India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. They also decided to increase the bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2008. While India reiterated its recognition of Tibet as part of China, Beijing recognized Sikkim as part of India.

It would be unrealistic to assume that Pakistan-China relations would remain unaffected by these changes in the global and regional strategic environment. Henceforth, the convergence of strategic interests, the strength of economic and commercial ties, the substance in military cooperation, the vitality of cultural links and mutual support on issues of deep interest to the two countries will determine the future course of Pakistan-China relations rather than any romantic notions about Pakistan-China friendship being “all weather” and “time tested.”

A close look at Pakistan-China relations during the 1990s and the past few years of the new century reveals that this relationship essentially remains healthy as evidenced by the signing of the “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourly Relations” during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pakistan in April 2005. Under the agreement, each contracting party would support the other’s efforts to safeguard its territorial integrity and would not join any alliance or bloc which infringes upon the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.

The real strength of Pakistan-China friendship lies in the convergence of the long-term strategic interests of the two countries. It is obvious by now that notwithstanding its fast developing trade and economic relations with Beijing, the US has adopted a well-calculated policy of building up India as a counterweight to China. Significant in this regard is the US declaration of March this year to help India become a “major world power in the 21st century.”

The vote by India in the IAEA Board of Governors meeting held last month in support of a resolution against Iran, when most of the non-aligned countries including Pakistan abstained, shows how far India is prepared to go to please the US in the hope of securing continued US support in nuclear, defence, economic and political fields. Therefore, China, despite its own growing relations with India, is likely to view the fast-growing US-India relations with some apprehension. Its effort, however, would be not to take any steps which would push India into the lap of the US.

On the other hand, Pakistan, despite the progress in some aspects of its composite dialogue with India and the amelioration of tensions between the two countries, will continue to need in the foreseeable future China’s support to face a possible threat to its security from India. Pakistan because of its strategically important location also provides China, especially its western part, with easy access to the Arabian sea and the vast oil and gas resources of the Middle East. This convergence of strategic interests, more than anything else, provides a sound basis for the further development of Pakistan-China relations.

Pakistan-US relations have their own importance for Islamabad. However, we need to remember that the US has walked away from Pakistan several times in the past. There is no guarantee that this would not happen again. Further, whereas Washington has decided to build up a strategic partnership with India based on the convergence of their long-term interests, its relations with Pakistan suffer from serious limitations and uncertainties.

We should not, therefore, allow the development of our relations with the US to impinge upon our critically important relationship with China. On the other hand, Chinese policymakers need to take care that the fast growing Indo-China relations do not have a dampening effect on Pakistan-China relations.

Keeping in view the foregoing, Pakistan must pay due attention to the development of its friendly relations and cooperation with China instead of taking this friendship for granted. We must especially redouble our efforts to strengthen further our ties with China in economic and commercial fields. In addition, bilateral cooperation in political, cultural and military fields should be encouraged.
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Old Wednesday, October 19, 2005
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I read this... its really an eye-opener. Pakistan should prefer China over US.

I recommend everybody who sees this to stop for a while and go through the reading.

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Adil Memon
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Old Wednesday, October 19, 2005
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Assalam Alaikum,

Well, most of everything is covered with this very well written article, but if you allow me, I would like to share my views on the topic,:

From the Independence, Pakistan's policy is been to look to others to shape its foreign policy. And then there is a threat of India, that really made things really difficult for our country to grasp the situation.

But one needs to learn from History, otherwise history keeps repeating itself, and that is been the case with Pakistan. Let me ellaborate on this issue a bit more, Pakistan realizing the threat to India always tried to made strong relations with the West, signed many pacts, and literally bent backwards to do everything in its power to keep'em happy. So what makes us think India was not doing the same, well it was.

And that was the reason, even being member of SEATO treaty, during the war of 1965 not one western nation came to help Pakistan when it needed the most. Same happened during 1971, and by some accounts these darling westen allies at some point gave India a free hand in its interference that resulted the Separation of EAST WEST Pakistan.

In 1980's, pakistan was in a situation of being between rock and a hard place, and decided to help its neighbor countrymen, and left itself literally naked to the warms and colds of the Cold War. Well, Pakistan at many occasions in that era tried facilitating a peaceful settlement, but pakistan was merely a pawn in the bigger picture, and the harm was done. As a result, the American made once Jihadist turned terrorist to their former master, and guess who had to pay the price, Pakistan.

Same happened with Kargil, where America called the Prime Minister of a Sovereign nation of pakistan to Washington in a manner, where the president call his cabinet member to his office to offer him piece of his brains. India was clearly a winner in that situation. As for Pakistan, after 9/11 its military and intelligence agencies are nabbing people left and right to stuff them in American C 130 planes to be later taken to indisclosed destination, without even their day in the court in their own country.

This was a summary of what we did for the western Powers, now let us examine what they gave us in return. Some promises that were either broken or remains to be fulfilled, like the matter of F-16 fighter jets. Whole lot of economic chaos, when the soviets were defeated and America left pakistan dry, to deal with its so called internal problems. The embargoes, a prize we paid to a self deterrence against India, and more importantly Pakistan as a nation that failed to deliver to its people, because it was busy delivering it to Super powers.

Whereas India, they got more that what they bargained for, they get to keep Kashmir, economic boost, foreign investment as well as outsourcing jobs be relocated to India, and more recently a nuclear pact, with Washington. By the way, if washington claims our President to be a good friend and an ally and gives him nothing, so it leaves me with the impression that Mr. Manmohan Singh must be Bush's brown brother. Because only brother can get preference over a friend.

Coming back to the issue of Pakistan and China friendship, well the cold war is over, but more importantly the war of Global economy has begun. Therefore, Pakistan is no longer valid unless it build economically. What Pakistan needs is a revision in its foreign policiy to the need of 21 century, and emerge as a viable state, therefore should sought the help of friends who were previously there in the past, when we needed them.

I firmly believe, that Paksitan has just a fraction of a value of gains by keeping up with US, because US can discard us at anytime when the need arises. But, China on the other hand is our neighbor, we have somewhat same geo-political and geo-economical issues as China, to maintain the balance in this new war of global economy against India. Just like we worked hard to become nuclear nation to save our country, we should once more rise to the occasion.
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Well, I just tried to reiterate the need for pakistan to renew its friendship with China with a different perspective. Hope you guys find it useful, and certainly open for corrections and criticism.

Thanks.
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