The year 2021 marks the completion of 7 decades of Sino-Pakistan relations. The foundations of an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two neighbors have been built on the solid footings of mutual interests and principled policies. The history of the cordiality between both countries traces its root back to May 21, 1951, when Pakistan established its diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China soon after its independence.
Pakistan proved to be the first country to take the lead for the restoration of the legitimate rights of China by co-sponsoring a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in September 1950 to install the delegation of China in the world organization. Since then, both countries have adopted supportive stances affecting each other’s interests. The friendship between them has been founded in the wit of ancients and time-honored good neighbor solidarity.
Sino-Pakistan relations have been cementing with the passage of every moment. They have entered a more promising phase following the partnership in the CPEC and the recent incline of Pakistan towards China instead of the United States. Along with many other convergences, the presence of a common enemy, India, at the borders of both countries has forced them to come closer.
Similarly, the inclination of India towards the United States and its designs of being a regional hegemon has further fueled the friendship between China and Pakistan. They have always supported each other against the expansionist ideology of India. Both countries share a vast history of friendship and cooperation, but the recent regional and global political developments have impinged a more positive impact on the relationship between both states.
What makes China a reliable and easy-going friend is its policy of nonintervention in the internal matters of its allies. They have been cooperating in multiple fields, but, in recent years, this cooperation has increased manifolds.
Karakorum Highway, also known as the Friendship Highway, is one of the initial projects of strategic cooperation between the two countries. The project started in the 1960s and was completed in 1979. It was intended to link the Xinjiang province and the northern province of Pakistan. Both countries agreed in 2015 to upgrade, widen and extend the road to link Kashgar with Gwadar, and signed a Boundary Agreement on 2nd March 1963 to preempt any kind of possible border dispute between them.
Pakistan was the first non-communist country to begin flights to China. In the 1970s, China collaborated with Pakistan to assist in the establishment of defense and infrastructure facilities to promote self-reliance. These facilities included Heavy Foundry and Forge, Taxila Mechanical Complex, and Kamra Aeronautical Complex. After Indian nuclear tests in 1974, China was the only nuclear country to remain sympathetic to Pakistan.
In the 1980s, China helped Pakistan after the destruction of 4000 centrifuges at the Sihala Plant. It also provided M-11 missiles to the latter and enabled it to develop Hatf and Shaheen series. JF-17 is also a joint production of both allies. Most importantly, after the 1998 nuclear test, China was the sole nuclear country to state that the nuclear tests were first carried out by India and then by Pakistan.
China was the only country to support Pakistan in building nuclear power plants. It also denounced the Indian aggression against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 along with providing diplomatic, economic, and military support to Pakistan. China also supports Pakistan’s stance regarding Kashmir at the United Nations. It has used its veto power in favor of Pakistan numerous times against India.
Pakistan played a key role in the normalization of Sino-US ties by facilitating high-level visits of the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger to China in 1971 which was followed by the visit of the US president to China in 1972. Beijing has also provided thousands of scholarships for Pakistanis to study at educational institutions in China.
It is no secret that China has always contributed to Pakistan in every aspect. It had played a seminal role in Pakistan’s development in Industry, agriculture, power generation, and communications. During the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2005, China increased its credit for a second 340mw nuclear power plant. Gwadar port and Ghazi Brotha are among the largest projects built by the Chinese cooperation.
By 2011, China provided $20bn for development projects. Bilateral trade burgeoned to $15.6 bn in the year 2019. The two countries are also building a Special Economic Zone for Chinese investment in Pakistan to increase economic ties. Pakistan’s severe energy shortages have been mitigated due to the completion of major energy projects which were initiated under the umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Pakistan became an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) because of the sponsorship of China. The rationale of the organization is to promote cooperation against extremism, separatism, and terrorism. Pakistan, since then, has actively participated in SCO summit conferences and has been complimented for its anti-terrorism struggle. Pakistan and India both became members of the SCO in the year 2016.
The biggest project in the history of the Sino-Pakistani friendship is that of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The deal regarding the CPEC project was inked in 2015. It aims to build 51 energy and infrastructure projects, arterial roads, rail lines, and power plants to facilitate the development in the territory along the route.
The project is initiated by the aid of the Chinese banks which would provide $46 bn as loans to Chinese companies which would be refunded out of profits made after the completion of the project. The development will not only be lucrative for the two countries but also for the Central Asian Republics, landlocked Afghanistan, and countries along the Arabian Sea.
It will not only decrease the cost and time for the Chinese imports and exports but will also open new business avenues for Pakistani entrepreneurs. The project includes 9 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which can be a panacea to several ills of Pakistan along with decreasing unemployment and the energy crisis. The CPEC is assumed as a game-changer for the region and is estimated to be completed by 2030.
On 28th May 2015, an all-parties conference decided to set up a parliamentary committee for continuing oversight so that all constituent political units derive equitable shares in the benefits of the project. Pakistan has established a special force to protect the CPEC from any sort of terrorism because it is pinching not only in the eyes of India but also the United States.
The Cost of Sino-Pakistan Relations
Being an emerging superpower of the world, China is an eyesore to India and the US. Both countries are trying their best to harm China and its allies. Pakistan is paying a heavy price for its cordiality with China. It is assumed that the fall of the former in the grey list of FATF and now in the list of the countries which induct children in the Army by the United States is also because of the country’s inclination towards China.
The US has tried multiple times to prevent Pakistan from the establishment of CPEC, but the latter has never considered it. India is also critical of the CPEC project and wants to destroy it by any means. The arrest of Kalbhushan Jadav and his admittance of inciting terrorism in the country is an utter substantiation of this.
Pakistan might have to face multiple threats from the West and its allies due to its alliance with China, but it should never step back from its friendship with the latter because China has never betrayed it and also because Pakistan’s economic and strategic interests will be best served with the rise of its neighbor.
70th Anniversary of Pak-China Friendship
On the completion of the 70 years of friendship between the two countries, they formally launched activities to commemorate their journey of cordiality which is attributed as “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the oceans, and sweeter than honey”. On this occasion, both sides organized a series of events for the whole year to celebrate this historic milestone. A virtual ceremony was simultaneously held in Islamabad and Beijing.
In the meeting, the foreign ministers of both countries reiterated their stance to strengthen the Sino-Pak “ironclad” friendship. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, in his article, maintained that the friendship between the two countries had reached an apex that finds very few parallels in the modern history of the world.
He also glorified the 70 years history of cordiality between the two countries and iterated that China was Pakistan’s largest trade and investment partner. He also reaffirmed that Pakistan was committed to building a closer Sino-Pak community of shared future in the new era aimed at further cementing the deep-rooted ties.
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