"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: abdulruff
Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
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Emerging Pakistan-China Relations


Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan, who was sworn in on Sept 09 in the presence of Afghanistan president Karzai, has chosen China for his maiden foreign trip and will visit China next week to negotiate a nuclear deal similar to the one between India and the USA. Zardari has already announced that his first foreign visit will be to China, a close ally of Pakistan for decades. Official sources indicate that Pakistan is already in touch with China for the nuclear deal to meet its energy crisis and the talks would start during Zardari's trip. Zardari's visit will coincide with the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games Sep 17 for which Pakistan has been invited and he will participate in the closing ceremony as well.


Under a proposed deal, China will supply nuclear material to Pakistan to meet its energy crisis. According to an official, 'This has nothing to do with the US-India deal but that has certainly provided us a way out to meet our energy crisis. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) may be signed for reaching an agreement on energy deal. Of course it will take time to finalize the deal after going through its details but the initial talks would start with the agreement during Zardari's visit


For the last many years, Pakistan has failed to meet its growing energy needs and the situation has worsened since November 2007, with the country facing massive power cuts and adopting summer time to benefit the most from daylight and save energy. Pakistan and China have a long history of close cooperation that started in early 50s and saw stronger ties during former prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's era. As foreign minister in military dictator Ayub Khan's government, Bhutto played an active role in bringing Pakistan and China closer when the US was distancing itself from Pakistan in the mid 1960s. In the last three years, there have been 10 state visits by Pakistani officials to China. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was the last top official to visit China last month. In April, former president Pervez Musharraf has also visited the country.


 Pakistan gives China most favored nation (MFN) status and is now establishing a bilateral Free Trade Area (FTA. Over the past two years, the trade volume between the two countries has jumped to $2.5 billion a year, accounting for 20% of China's total trade with South Asia. More importantly, Chinese investment in Pakistan has increased to $4 billion, registering a 30% increase just over the past two years since 2003. The growing economic cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad is also solidifying their strategic partnership. Before leaving for his visit to Beijing this past December, Pakistani Prime Minister Aziz told reporters in Islamabad: "Pakistan and China are strategic partners and our relations span many areas." Last year, China and Pakistan conducted their first-ever joint naval exercises near the Shanghai coast. Last December, Pakistan opened a consulate in Shanghai.


Deep Sea Port


A major breakthrough in PaK-China economic ties was achieved with the Deep Sea Port project in Pakistan with Chinese assistance. Although the Gwadar Port project has been under study since May 2001, the U.S. entrée into Kabul provided an added impetus for its speedy execution. Four months after the U.S. ordered its troops into Afghanistan to remove the "Taliban regime", China and Pakistan joined hands to break ground in building a Deep Sea Port on the Arabian Sea. The project was sited in an obscure fishing village of Gwadar in Pakistan's western province of Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan to the northwest and Iran to the southwest. Gwadar is nautically bounded by the Persian Gulf in the west and the Gulf of Oman in the southwest. The government of Pakistan has designated the port area as a "sensitive defense zone." Once completed, the Gwadar port will rank among the world's largest deep-sea ports.



The foundation for the Deep Sea Port was laid on March 22, 2002. Having set up its bases in Central, South, and West Asian countries, the U.S. virtually brought its military forces at the doorstep of China virtually threatening the Chinese. Beijing was already wary of the strong U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, which supplies 60% of its energy needs. It was now alarmed to see the U.S. extend its reach into Asian nations that ring western China. Having no blue water navy to speak of, China feels defenseless in the Persian Gulf against any hostile action to choke off its energy supplies. This vulnerability set Beijing scrambling for alternative safe supply routes for its energy shipments. The planned Gwadar Deep Sea Port was one such alternative for which China had flown its Vice Premier, Wu Bangguo, to Gwadar to lay its foundation in 2002. The convergence of Sino-Pakistani strategic interests has put the port project onto a fast track to its early completion. In three years since its inauguration, the first phase of the project is already complete with three functioning berths.




In the past, Pakistan endured prolonged economic and naval blockades imposed by the Indian Navy. Pakistan was interested in the project to seek strategic depth further to the southwest from its major naval base in Karachi that has long been vulnerable to the dominant Indian Navy. To diversify the site of its naval and commercial assets, Pakistan has already built a naval base at Ormara, the Jinnah Naval Base, which has been in operation since June 2000. The Gwadar port project, however, is billed to crown the Pakistan Navy into a force that can rival regional navies.


 The port will be complemented with a modern air defense unit, a garrison, and a first-rate international airport capable of handling airbus service. Although the total cost of the project is estimated at $1.16 billion USD, China pitched in $198 million and Pakistan $50 million to finance the first phase. China also has invested another $200 million into building a coastal highway that will connect the Gwadar port with Karachi. The second phase, which will cost $526 million, will feature the construction of 9 more berths and terminals and will also be financed by China




Initially, China was reluctant to finance the Gwadar port project because Pakistan offered the U.S. exclusive access to two of its critical airbases in Jacobabad (Sind) and Pasni (Baluchistan) during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Beijing took up the project on guarantees from Islamabad.


The port project set off alarm bells in India which already feels encircled by China from three sides: Myanmar, Tibet, and Pakistan. To counter Sino-Pak collaboration, India has brought Afghanistan and Iran into an economic and strategic alliance.

These external concerns are stoking internal challenges to the port project.



Presently, ill-focused on Islamabad, India is in urgent need of a shorter transit route to quickly get its trade goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Iranians are already working on Chabahar port in Sistan-Baluchistan, which will be accessible for Indian imports and exports with road links to Afghanistan and Central Asia. India is helping build a 200-kilometer road that will connect Chabahar with Afghanistan. Once completed, Indians will use this access road to the port for their imports and exports to and from Central Asia



Baluchistan, where the project is located, is once again up in arms against the federal government. The most important reason for armed resistance against the Gwadar port is that Baluch nationalists see it as an attempt to colonize them and their natural resources. Several insurgent groups have sprung up to nip the project in the bud. India is alleged to have supported the insurgency and obviously, Pakistan blames India and Iran for fanning insurgency in Baluchistan. The Chinese in Pakistan are vulnerable because of their tense relationship with the Uighur Muslim majority of Xinjiang- a factor the anti-Muslim New Delhi uses as a "chip" with China.




The port is intended to serve China's economic objectives of integrating Pakistan into the Chinese economy by outsourcing low-tech, labor-absorbing, resource-intensive industrial production to Islamabad. The project will also seek access to Central Asian markets for energy imports and Chinese exports by developing road networks and rail links through Afghanistan and Pakistan into Central Asia. The scheme will benefit the Muslim-majority autonomous region of Xinjiang, through a massive infusion of development funds and increased economic links with the Central Asian Islamic nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.


The Gwadar port provides China a strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, although to the alarm of India and the unease of the U.S. sitting opposite the Strait of Hurmoz, through which 80% of the world's energy exports flow. The port will enable China to monitor its energy shipments from the Persian Gulf, and offer it, in the case of any hostile interruption in such shipments, a safer alternative passage for its energy imports from Central Asia. Its presence on the Indian Ocean will further increase its strategic influence with major South Asian nations, particularly Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.


To connect western China with Central Asia by land routes, Pakistan is working on building road links to Afghanistan from its border town of Chaman in Baluchistan to Qandahar in Afghanistan. Eventually, the Gwadar port will be accessible for Chinese imports and exports through overland links that will stretch to and from Karakoram Highway in Pakistan's Northern Areas that border China's Muslim-majority Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.



An Observation


Considering the overall perspective of Pakistan-China relationship, the forthcoming visit of President Zardari is expected to further boost the economic ties and energize the partnership strategic tempos with Beijing. The Gwadar Port project is the summit of long partnership so far and that will bring the two countries closer in maritime defense as well.


Annoyed with emerging Pak-China military relations, India on Sept 08 conveyed to China its unhappiness over the latter's move to block the NSG waiver but Beijing insisted that it played a "constructive" role at the 45-nation grouping's meeting in Vienna last week. China had joined six other countries, which had questions about non-proliferation issues at the NSG, compounding difficulties for India in securing the waiver. The Chinese representative had expressed apprehensions that the waiver for India could affect the international non-proliferation system. Using the excuse of India waiver, China has apparently started batting for a similar exemption for Pakistan as it says that NSG should "equally address the aspirations of all parties for the peaceful use of nuclear power while adhering to the nuclear non-proliferation mechanism."



Like the USA doing this globally, India has been making strenuous efforts to destroy this strategic friendship between its "enemies" China and Pakistan. India hopes to use US resources to achieve the destructive goals in the neighborhoods.


Unfortunately for India, US-India strategic partnership is only to contain china, however, since USA is not favoring Indian project of destabilizing Pakistan quite willingly. In any case it is pretty tough trying to end a bond that is well cultivated over decades and constantly tested for reliability and durability. Pakistan-China ties, therefore, are expected get a fresh impetus following the visit of the Pakistan's new leader.  


Thank you

Yours Sincerely,


Researcher in International Affairs,

South Asia

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