Why Pakistan looks to China
The US faced with the logic of a rising India, sought closer ties with her. But what’s to stop China from doing the same?
Pakistan and China had always enjoyed a warm relationship. In 2010, when a US diplomat challenged his Chinese counterpart on his countries relations with Pakistan, the Chinese diplomat was quoted as saying “Pakistan is our Israel”.On thePakistani side of the relationship, President Pervez Musharraf, described China as a “time-tested and all-weather friend“.This relationship dates back to the ‘Cold War’ dynamic. India, Pakistan’s great rival, was closer to the Soviet Union, which was a rival not just to the US,but also to China within the communist world as well. Therefore it comes as no surprise Pakistan cultivated such a relationship with both the US and China,rivals to the Soviet Union.
But times change,and as such so does the logic behind such strategic relationships. Her old ally, the US, now seeks closer ties to India. The US went from being 14th(1999) to 2nd (2013) biggest arms exporter to India, India also saw more US presidential visits in the past 20 years than it did in the previous 40 years. And is it any wonder why when India’s GDP in 2013 was roughly $1.9 trillion. By contrast, Pakistan’s GDP was only $236 billion, only about 12 percent of India’s. Whether by GDP per capita, or economic growth the gap between India and Pakistan is likely to grow. India is part of BRICS and the G20 and is a leader of the developing world through the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement. And with US-Pakistani relations damaged by US drone strikes and the ‘war on terrorism’ leading to the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Pakistan cannot continue to relay on the US military aid as it once had. That not to say that India hasn’t got its own problems, it infrastructure needs to be desperately updated, its railways are among the most well used in the world,but most of it originates from colonial area. Also, India is famous for its large scale power outages and over regulation, which inhibits growth.
The US faced with the logic of a rising India, sought closer ties with her. But what’s to stop China from doing the same? A few border disputes and that’s about it. China and India have established coordination and communication mechanisms on a variety of fronts, including official meetings at the deputy-minister level, task-force meetings, meetings of diplomatic and military experts, special delegate meetings, and the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs. Thus the possibility of a rivalry between India and China diminishing could be a reality, and thus a nightmare scenario for Pakistan.
That said, there are more bridges between China and Pakistan than there are between China and India, and even Pakistan and the US for that matter, with room to build more. And without the catalyst like drone strikes in Waziristan that damaged US-Pakistani relations so badly, it’s doubtful any Sino-Pakistani relations would also follow the same path. For example, both China and Pakistan are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists that prevent them from developing particular regions,and as such started cooperating with each other accordingly. China also had a hand in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. The PAC JF-17 Thunder and the Karakorum-8 (K8) are joint Pakistani-Chinese creation. China has also invested in Pakistan’s Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which the US and India see as part of China’s ‘string of pearls’, giving the Chinese a strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. No doubt alarming to India, while strengthening Pakistan’s diplomatic hand in its own relations with China. China also seeks to expand its influence in Central Asian, something on a diplomatic and geographical level Pakistan could assist with.
“For China, Pakistan is a low-cost secondary deterrent to India, for Pakistan, China is a high-value guarantor of security against India“, said former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.
This is all to say that there is a future for a rivalry between Pakistan and India. Of course at first glimpse it’s absolutely absurd, but what if both sides could put away their differences and develop an amicable relationship. After all,during 2001 Gujarat earthquake, Pakistan sent aid to India. India did the same during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. There’s also an economic argument, trade is done through Dubai increasing costs, but India is a big market that could see Pakistan own growth excel. Likewise, Pakistan has the biggest market of all of India’s neighbours(barring China of course). Nonetheless, the Kashmir dispute seems to be as unsolvable as the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, and the history of mistrust between the two countries make closer and friendlier ties seem all but impossible.
If the rivalry is to continue and Pakistan is to hold its own against an increasingly power India and pack punch beyond it weight Pakistan should look beyond China,even beyond its traditional sphere. Already it seems that Pakistan is doing this with greater ties to Russia. The risks associated by not doing this is be economically and diplomatically isolated, something Pakistan can ill afford.
Courtesy: Pakistan Herald