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User Name: Raja_Muhammad_Khan
Full Name: Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
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Sino-Pak Relationship in the Historical Perspective 


Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

A number of city states along the Yellow River originally formed the history of ancient Chinese civilization nearly 4000 years ago. However the traces of written history of this great civilization date back to 1550 BCE, commencing from Shang Dynasty.  Chinese culture, philosophy and literature however developed during Zhou Dynasty (1045 BCE to 256 BCE). Thereafter China passed through a number of dynasties until the last one (Qing Dynasty) warped to Chinese nationalists in 1911.

The modern China came into being from the remnants of the years of long-drawn-out civil war between Communists and Nationalists on October 1, 1949. The country was renamed as the People’s Republics of China under the dynamic leadership of Mao Zedong. Traditionally China has been a major world power and for hundreds of years, it dominated the world politics. It had trade and business linkages with Europe even before the discovery of the modern means of communication. The famous silk route was basically a trade link between the primordial China and Europe. 

Pakistan came into being at a time once Chinese Civil War was at its acme. Upon its formation as an independent country, Pakistan had the honour of recognizing this great neighbor as the first Muslim country. In the initial days of its history, Pakistan supported the restoration of Chinese legitimate right of becoming permanent member of the United Nations Security Council through a dexterous diplomacy. Thereafter both countries are in a state of deep-rooted and time tested friendship.

As a symbol of amity, China helped Pakistan in the construction of Karakorum Highway, linking China’s Xingjian region with the Northern areas of Pakistan. The strategic partnership between both countries was initially driven by the mutual needs and to counter the influence of other regional and extra regional powers. Apart from the political connections, both countries had developed military relationship which subsequently led towards creation of   a Joint Committee for Economy, Trade and Technology in 1982.

In the beginning of 1970s, Pakistan played a very crucial role in bringing United States and China closer to each other. The opportunities had allowed China for an outwards looking rather inwards trend it had followed until then. This Western interaction allowed China to bring a transformation in its approach in the field of global politics, economy, trade and industrialization. Following this policy, in a period of three decades, the country has emerged as a global economic giant.  Throughout the cold war, Pakistan played the role of a bridge between China and the Western world. It supported China in flaking away the impression that being a closed society and friendly to former Soviet Union, it is anti West.

Indeed the economic triumph of China cannot be attributed to its “Open Door Policy” alone; but it’s believed in peace and harmony within China as well as peaceful and harmonious globalization. The basic Chinese philosophy is totally against the external aggression. Indeed, “it nurtures no expansionist designs, respects sovereign equality of nations; believes in peaceful coexistence; doesn’t encroach on the territories of others; never intervenes in the internal affairs of other countries and as a regional power has provided continuous “all weather” friendship and support to its neighbours, without any strings attached”.

The Sino-Pak relationship has indeed nurtured into a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and development. Right from the beginning, the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries has remained uninterrupted, trust-bond and all weather, as rightly said that friendship between the two is “deeper than the oceans, and higher than the mountains.” Over the years, this friendship has survived numerous geo-political and geo-strategic changes which took place at the global and regional level. These changes include; normalization of Sino-Indian relations from  1989 onwards, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, post 9/11 developments especially once Pakistan is acting as a frontline state in the global war against terror and the recent Indo-US strategic convergence.

China has never disappointed Pakistan, whenever it needed its assistance.   During the crucial period of Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, China offered its full support with necessary weapons and equipment. It did not abandon Pakistan in the post Cold War era, rather emerged as the most significant strategic partner. At the global level, China had always supported Pakistani point of view on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and declared India as an illegal occupant of the state’s territory. More recently, China denied visa access to Kashmiri nationals on Indian passport, rather issue visa on a separate paper attached with the passport. This speaks of Chinese commitment with Pakistan’s Kashmir cause. Subsequent to Indo-US Strategic Partnership in 2005, Pakistan and China had signed a landmark ‘Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation’, whereby both committed themselves that “neither party will join any alliance or block which infringes upon the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity” of either nation, and “would not conclude treaties of this nature with any third party.”

Apart from above, China is helping Pakistan in areas like; telecommunication, agriculture, hydro-power projects, students’ exchange programme and scholarships, boosting of economic and commercial ties at all levels, setting up of trans-boarder economic zones, construction of an Engineering University in Pakistan, human resource training in various professional areas, assistance and vocational training in agro-based industries, food preservation and conservation, direct air links between Lahore and Xian, revival of sick IT units in Pakistan like TIP, etc.

China and Pakistan have always cooperated in the field of Defence and Defence Production. China has been a high-value guarantor and a reliable supplier of conventional military equipment to Pakistan like; F-7 fighters, a version of the T-96 main battle tank, and subsidizing the future construction of four frigates P-22 for the Pakistan navy. Apart from this, there is a joint production of ‘JF-17 Thunder’ aircraft between Pakistan and China which has the strategic significance for Pakistan, and is a unique example of Sino-Pak deep rooted friendship. Being the largest supplier of the conventional weapons, China has transferred equipment and technology and provided technical and scientific expertise to Pakistani scientists. It also helped Pakistan in building two nuclear reactors at Chasma and promised to construct two more.

 China is also a major source of investment and trade for Pakistan. In 2008, Pak-China trade volume remained $ 7 billion. In the initial six months of the current year the bi-lateral trade volume between two countries have been $ 3.06 billion and likely to reach all time high by the end of this year. The newly signed contracts between both countries have a value of $ 3.22 billion. There has been a foreign direct investment of over $1 billion from Chinese investors to Pakistan during the last financial year. Through a free trade pact signed between Pakistan and China in 2006, it is expected that the bi-lateral trade volume would reach to $15 billion within the next five years.

Gwader port; a strategically significant deep sea port in Pakistan has been completed in a record time with the whole hearted support of China. The port is located just 150 nautical miles from the Straits of Hormuz, thus overlooking the world’s busiest straits through which passes nearly 60 per cent of the world’s oil supplies. It can act as an alternative to the shipping route or as a storage place of the heavy oil tankers (up to 200, 000 tons) in the event of the blockade of the straits of Hormuz.  The needed communication infrastructure, linking the port with rest of the Balochistan province and Karachi has also been developed by China.  The port is of the great strategic value as it supplements Pakistan’s importance in the region, while allowing China to diversify and secure its crude oil import routes and simultaneously gain access to the Persian Gulf.

China is in the process of linking the Central Asian Republics with the Karakoram Highway and also the widening process of the KKH on the Pakistani side, which ultimately would link the Gwader with its semi autonomous region of Xinjiang through an all weather highway. The Gwader port and communication infrastructure upon completion would enable China to have an easy access with the Middle Eastern countries and its strategic presence around the Indian Ocean.

This gigantic network linking Gwader, with Central Asia, Middle East and to Xinjiang would facilitate China in managing its energy needs to sustain its heavy industrial set-up. Apart from this, the network would integrate Pakistan into the Chinese economy by out sourcing low tech, basic production and manufacturing jobs, making it into a giant factory floor for China. Pakistan would thus become a regional trade-hub for commercial traffic and there will be an economic development of the country at the domestic level.

Unfortunately, the opportunity cannot be materialized unless there is a peace and stability in Pakistan in particular and region in general. Owing to the foreign interventions in the internal affairs of Pakistan, especially by our eastern neighbour, there is a state of continuing instability in some parts of the country which constraint the perceived Sino-Pak economic activities.  Indeed the foreign elements operating within Pakistan have the mandate to sabotage the economic prosperity of Pakistan, which it expects to achieve through trade and transit. Some of the neighbouring countries also consider Gwader as the potential threat for their ports and economic hubs, therefore exploited by India provide funding for the terrorist activities in Pakistan.  

The external involvement undergoing since last few years cannot be afforded to prolong for an indefinite period. Pakistan has suffered enough especially in the field of economy and it cannot afford any more. In most part of its history, Pakistan has been wrestling with the issues like good governance, security and eradication of poverty. There we must rise to the occasion and put our house in order for smooth running of economic activities in the country.  The elements and motives behind Killings of Chinese nationals in Pakistan must be traced and controlled for re-dressing the Chinese concerns. In addition, China must be clarified on tangible terms that no Pakistani national is involved in any violent activities in Chinese areas  or against its nationals working in Pakistan. Indeed no Pakistani can do that as China is doing this all for Pakistan.

The regional and global actors involved in spoiling the Sino-Pak relations must be identified and their activities should be exposed at the international level. In order to realize significance of the true potential of the time tested friendship with China, the ever expanding strategic partnership between India and United States has to be countered at all costs. Like earlier, Pakistan remains relevant to China and so is the case with Pakistan. It is therefore essential to engage China in a big way. More space should be provided to China for developmental projects in Pakistan from which both the countries can benefit economically and security wise. The agreements already concluded with China must be pursued to accrue maximum benefits.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Luo Zhaohui, said in a recent statement that, “China-Pakistan relations have become an example of harmonious coexistence between countries of different civilizations. We view our relations with Pakistan in strategic terms and from a long terms perspective”. In 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao, declared Sino-Pak relations as being “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Indian Ocean and sweeter than honey.” In yet another occasion, the President said; Pakistan and China are “good neighbours, close friends, dear brothers and trusted partners”.

Therefore, “let’s join hands and work hard to usher in a much brighter tomorrow of Sino-Pak friendship and cooperation”.

The writer is a South Asian analyst
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