Explained: The Pakistan-China relationship | News Explained, The Indian Express
In response, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted that “some history lessons are in order” and cited examples of Pakistan-China friendship over the decades. “So ask yourself: were China and Pakistan far apart then?
Pakistani and Chinese leaders describe their ties using metaphors such as “higher than the mountains” and “deeper than the oceans”. So what’s the story of the relationship?
The first years
Pakistan had recognized the People’s Republic of China – after India – in the early years after 1947 and established diplomatic relations in 1951. But, due to Pakistan’s adherence to two US-led anti-communist military pacts , SEATO and CENTO, it was considered part of the non-Soviet bloc – and China, under Mao Zedong, was across the aisle.
On the other hand, India had a working relationship with China – adorned with slogans like Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. Both had the same anti-colonial and non-aligned approach.
However, there was a complex layer to this bonhomie.
In Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet, author and historian Mikel Dunham wrote that after Chinese troops invaded in 1950, Pakistan provided staging facilities for US aircraft to supply equipment. to the Tibetan rebels.
The 1962 war
The 1962 India-China War led Beijing to develop closer ties with Islamabad. Pakistan gained diplomatic support from China in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. In fact, analysts say Pakistan grew emboldened in aggression after India’s defeat by China in 1962.
The then US Ambassador to New Delhi, John Kenneth Galbraith, wrote in the Ambassador’s Journal that he feared Pakistan was “forming some sort of Axis with Beijing”.
In a border agreement in 1963, Pakistan ceded the Shaksgam Valley to China. The Shaksgam Valley or the Trans Karakoram Tract is part of the Hunza-Gilgit region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and is a territory claimed by India but controlled by Pakistan.
Article 6 of the agreement stated that “the two parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned shall reopen negotiations with the government of the People’s Republic of China , on the boundary described in Article Two of the current agreement, so as to sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the current agreement”.
The agreement laid the foundation for the Karakoram Highway, which was jointly built by China and Pakistan in the 1970s.
The real diplomatic bonhomie began in the 1970s, when Pakistani leader General Yahya Khan facilitated contact between the United States led by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and the Chinese Mao and Zhou Enlai. This paved the way for Kissinger’s secret trip in July 1971 and the start of the US-China effort to discuss the issues that had divided them.
The relationship between China and Pakistan grew during the 1970s and 1980s. Nuclear cooperation was one of the essential pillars, especially after India tested its nuclear device in 1974.
China has played an important role in helping Pakistan develop its nuclear energy technology. In September 1986, they signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer of civil nuclear technology.
In 1991, China agreed to supply Pakistan with its locally developed Qinshan-1 nuclear power plant. Construction of the Chashma-1 nuclear power plant began in 1993 and the 300 MWe reactor became operational in May 2000. A second 300 MWe power plant at Chashma, C-2, went critical in 2011.
After India tested its nuclear device in 1998, Pakistan followed suit, largely with help from Beijing.
BBC journalist Gordon Corera wrote in Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the AQ Khan Network: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity and the Rise of the AQ Khan Network: “If you subtract the aid from China, there wouldn’t be a Pakistani nuclear program”.
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The 1988 rapprochement between India and China with the visit of Rajiv Gandhi became a watershed moment. There was a clear shift for Beijing, where it saw ties with India from an economic perspective and focused on trade, while separately discussing the border dispute with India. This was to Islamabad’s dismay.
For Islamabad, the biggest shock came in 1996 when “Chinese President Jiang Zemin [then visiting Pakistan] did not explicitly mention Kashmir… This undermined Pakistan’s position that Kashmir should be resolved through international mediation, not bilateral negotiations,” analyst Andrew Small wrote in The China-Pakistan Axis.
During the Kargil conflict in 1999, Beijing advised Islamabad to withdraw its troops and “exercise self-control and resolve disputes through peaceful means”. And in July of that year, the Chinese Foreign Ministry asked India and Pakistan to “respect the line of control in Kashmir and resume negotiations at the earliest in accordance with the spirit of the declaration of Lahore”. This was seen as a snub in Islamabad.
Beijing took a similar cautious approach after the attack on parliament in 2002, the escalation of Op Parakram, as well as the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. This was also visible in the way China reacted when the Balakot airstrikes took place after the Pulwama attack in February. 2019. In fact, China signed the UNSC declaration, while blocking the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist in March 2019.
The US nuclear deal
The Sino-Pakistani tango continued at the turn of the century, as Beijing saw India move closer to the United States. The US-India nuclear deal has left Pakistan worried, and the Beijing-Islamabad tie has tried to block exemption to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Since 2013, as Xi Jinping’s China sought to beef up with border clashes in Depsang, Chumar, Doklam and eastern Ladakh, India has been wary of the axis with Islamabad.
India’s August 2019 decision to repeal Article 370 and revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has spilled over onto the diplomatic front, angering Beijing and Islamabad (and Rawalpindi) and getting even closer.
China’s position on Kashmir was reflected much earlier. A 1965 Chinese diplomatic note to India, reproduced in JN Dixit’s book, “India-Pakistan in War and Peace”, read: “As long as the Indian government oppresses the Kashmiri people, China will not stop supporting the Kashmiri people in its struggle for self-determination As long as the Indian government persists in its unbridled aggression against Pakistan, China will not stop supporting Pakistan in its righteous struggle against aggression.
It was no surprise to New Delhi that China repeatedly tried to bring up and discuss the situation in Kashmir after August 5, 2019.
Pakistan’s economic dependence on Beijing has also increased in recent years. Her being on the Financial Action Task Force’s gray list on terrorist financing, despite presidency of Beijing for a year, showed China’s limits in helping its all-time friend.
China had repeatedly blocked Masood Azhar’s listing before bowing to US and European pressure in May 2019 when it lifted the block. He is also concerned about the emboldening and support of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) by Pakistan-based terrorist groups and creating unrest in Xinjiang province where Uyghurs have been marginalized.
Islamabad, which defends the rights of Muslims around the world, including in India, has maintained a studied silence on the treatment of Uyghur minorities. Imran Khan said his country believed in the Chinese version.
From Pakistan’s perspective, with the United States out of the region and Washington losing interest in Afghanistan, Beijing is the best bet for its ailing economy, which depends on bailing out foreign debt. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has manifested itself in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It has led to some investments, but there are voices in Pakistan that have started to question whether the project will provide jobs for Pakistanis.
From China’s perspective, it provides access to the western Indian Ocean through the port of Gwadar in Balochistan.
Small, who is senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, wrote in a September 2020 report: “…The China-Pakistan relationship of the future will likely resemble that of the past more than the version that emerged after the launch of CPEC in 2015. Deep security ties will persist, and even intensify as the Sino-Indian relationship deteriorates, but without the scale of broad-based economic and political engagement that has characterized recent years. years.
Closer Defense Bonds
In 2020, China signed a defense pact with Pakistan. General Wei Fenghe, Chinese Minister of Defense, visited Islamabad and signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at enhancing defense cooperation between the Pakistani army and the People’s Liberation Army.
The Pakistani army recently introduced its first batch of Chinese-made VT-4 main battle tanks. Pakistan has purchased Chinese-made combat drones or unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
China’s Defense Ministry quoted Wei as expressing its desire to “push the military relationship to a higher level, so as to jointly face various risks and challenges, firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security interests of the two countries, and safeguard regional peace and stability.
Pakistan agrees with China’s position on its major issues, including the South China Sea, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.
The increasing number of Sino-Pakistani military exercises is a further sign of the deepening military partnership. The two armies recently conducted a joint exercise near the Line of Effective Control in Tibet.
The Afghan angle
After Kabul fell to the Taliban last year, China now sensed an opportunity to enter Afghanistan to gain influence and resources with the help of Pakistan. There have been several meetings between Chinese leaders, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Taliban leaders.
China hopes that Islamabad will be able to convince the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for ETIM attacks, and that Beijing will make a transition to normalizing the Taliban by granting them financial assistance.
With Beijing’s rise as a global power, India sees its partnership with Pakistan as a bigger concern than before. For New Delhi, the Indo-Pacific strategy involving the United States, Australia, Japan and European partners is a key bulwark against the axis.