Sino-Pak_QS.pdf - SISA Report no 16-u00adu2010 2014...

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Unformatted text preview: SISA Report no. 16 -­‐ 2014 Deeper than the Indian Ocean? An Analysis of Pakistan-­‐China Relations Qandeel Siddique Oslo, February 2014 Centre for International and Strategic Analysis © SISA 2014 All views expressed in the report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Centre for International and Strategic Analysis. The text may not be printed in full or part without the permission of the author. Queries can be directed to: Centre for International and Strategic Analysis Phone: (+47) 932 49 083 E-­‐mail: [email protected] Internet: Executive Summary The leadership of both Pakistan and China often celebrate their mutual relationship in ebulliently congenial fashion. This report investigates Sino-­‐Pak friendship and partnership by examining the nature and extent of cooperation within the diplomatic, economic, and defense spheres. Amid civil and military circles, as well as the general Pakistani public, China is viewed favorably. Sino-­‐Pak relations are strongest in diplomatic and defense collaboration, rooted in overlapping geo-­‐strategic interest and threat perceptions. Focus now is on bringing to par economic cooperation and people-­‐ to-­‐people contact by strongly endorsing aspects of this alliance. Compared to the US, China is viewed by Islamabad as a reliable, “all-­‐weather”, non-­‐ interfering, supportive strategic partner. While the US is looked on with suspicion, Beijing is treated as a time-­‐tested trusted friend – this confidence centers on the transfer of defense technology. The undercurrent of common interests and objectives implies that Pakistan and China face the same friends and foes. One common adversary, in particular – namely, India – united China and Pakistan, and arguably this remains the germane reason for Sino-­‐Pak alliance. In fact, China and Pakistan continue to create partnerships based on countering the possible rise in influence of other powers in the region, including India, Russia and the United States. The role of Gwadar port is expedient in this regard. Attacks on Chinese persons inside Pakistan, and violent extremism in Xinjiang province that has been linked to safe havens inside Pakistan, remain thorny issues in an otherwise rosy alliance. However, there appears to be a tacit understanding that “outside involvement” (including but not limited to the US and India) aimed at containing Pakistan-­‐China collaboration is a likely source of disturbance. 3 Contents Executive Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 3 Introduction ..................................................................................................................................................... 5 Diplomatic Relations .................................................................................................................................... 8 Cultural exchange ........................................................................................................................................ 14 How Pakistan Sees China ......................................................................................................................... 15 Post 2013 Election developments ........................................................................................................ 17 How China sees Pakistan ......................................................................................................................... 18 Pak role: offsetting/exploiting US-­‐China rivalry ........................................................................... 20 Is India still relevant? ................................................................................................................................ 21 Terrorism/Counter-­‐Terrorism ............................................................................................................. 24 Outside involvement .................................................................................................................................. 26 Economic Relations .................................................................................................................................... 27 Gwadar: game-­‐changer? ........................................................................................................................... 34 Defense Relations ........................................................................................................................................ 35 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................................................... 42 4 Introduction “Over the past 62 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the seed of China-­‐ Pakistan friendship sowed by Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and other leaders of the older generation, has grown into a towering tree thanks to tendering by several generations of Chinese and Pakistanis.”1 Broadly speaking, three subject matters in Pakistan can claim to enjoy near-­‐unanimous, nationwide support. Namely: • Kashmir, • Nuclear bomb, and • China. With a 90% favorability rating inside Pakistan as per a 2012 PEW survey, China’s popularity in Pakistan appears to cut across all segments of the Pakistani populace. Within the political and military circles, as well as civil society and the general public, the attitude towards China is seemingly and exceptionally positive. Islamabad’s benevolent disposition towards Beijing can be gleaned from watching state-­‐ owned channel, Pakistan Television or PTV. PTV daily broadcasts a song about Pakistan-­‐ China friendship (or “Pak-­‐Chin dosti”); the lyrics are a combination of Urdu and Chinese, 1 Statement by Chinese premier Li Keqiang; “Full Text of Premier Li’s Interview with Pakistani Media”, Global Times, 23 May 2013. 5 repeating the chorus: “Long Live Sino-­‐Pak Friendship” in both languages. In the 1970s, too, PTV routinely played a Pakistan-­‐China friendship song. Pakistan has not extended such gestures to any other country. Another action signifying the importance of China to Pakistan is the maiden visit to China made by Prime Minister-­‐elect, Nawaz Sharif. On 4 July Sharif made China the first destination of his overseas trip. This came as a surprise to many who expected Sharif to turn to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s erstwhile financier and also a personal ally to Sharif; after being deposed in a military coup in 1999 (during his last premiership). Sharif had benefited from the hospitality of Saudi Arabia where he took refuge for eight years. Choosing Beijing over Riyadh as his first port of call, then, magnifies the relevance and import of China. Sino-­‐Pak diplomatic relations can be traced back to the early 1950s. On 9 January 1950 Pakistan recognized the newly established Peoples Republic of China and diplomatic ties between Pakistan and China were forged in 1951 when Pakistan opened its mission in Beijing. Relations are thought to have fizzled when Pakistan was seen backing the United States against seating the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations.2 After its partition from India in 1947, the newly found Pakistan allied itself with the capitalist US coalition and at a time when India and China were allies. In a convoluted step, under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Pakistan also built closer ties with communist countries, including Soviet Union and China. Pakistan was one of the first countries, and the first Muslim country, to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC), thus providing China with a corridor into the non-­‐ communist world. This was reciprocated with a continual stream of no-­‐strings-­‐attached military hardware and defense-­‐related assistance from Beijing. While defense cooperation remains a lynchpin in their partnership, economy and energy are emerging as the new hot topics. They are of imperative importance to Islamabad who is engaged in concerted efforts to persuade Beijing to bring economic and commercial ties between the two countries at par with the duo’s defense dealings. 2 Ziad Haider, “Could Pakistan Bridge the U.S.-­‐China Divide?” Foreign Policy, 25 March 2013. 6 China’s rise as a strong economic and military power and kingmaker with growing political clout is increasingly challenging American hegemony. While China’s friendship with a number of countries has waxed and waned over the decades, Sino-­‐Pak relationship can be said to have withstood the vicissitudes of larger international politics as well as changes in regional and domestic currents. The close ties between China and Pakistan remained steadfast in defiance of the differences in language, culture, history, and ideology. The connection is often noted for its relative uniformity based on a geo-­‐strategic interests common to both China and Pakistan and has been well preserved over time. One of the possible bones of contention in an otherwise amiable relationship is the unstable security situation in Pakistan and the threat to Chinese workers/personnel. Beijing needs a stable and peaceful Pakistan in order to realize its economic endeavors in the area. While the killing of Chinese nationals in Pakistan severely impairs the image of Pakistan in China, it does not appear to necessarily cause a rift in state-­‐to-­‐state relationship; while China encourages Pakistan to counter its prevalent terrorist trends, there is also a tacit understanding between the two nations that “outside forces” are at play in the region, interested in counter-­‐weighing Sino-­‐Pak partnership.3 China is heavily invested in South Asia; this arguably bears ramification for the US as a superpower who would be interested in countering Chinese influence. There appears to be little doubt in Islamabad that, despite verbal assurances from the US that it does not have a problem with Sino-­‐Pak friendship, the US is “intervening” in this regard.4 In real terms, Pakistan receives greater investment and assistance from the US and the balance of trade between US and Pakistan is in the latter’s favor. This is attributed to the United States status as a superpower versus that of China that remains as yet shy of “the category of countries to provide immense assistance”.5 Yet, since China has shown to evolve over the years with economic growth and increased political clout, Islamabad expects to continue reaping rewards of its close alliance with Beijing. 3 Interviews with defense analysts and journalists, Islamabad, June/July 2013. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 7 However, it is possible that while bilateral cooperation remains robust in the Sino-­‐Pak partnership. Especially from the Chinese perspective, it may not be as important as it once was – that is, it is now more cordial than considerable. Firstly, a thaw in Sino-­‐Indo relations starting in the late 1980s signaled a declination in Chinese interests vis-­‐à-­‐vis Pakistan. China arguably feels less contested by India today; China boasts a GDP 4 times higher than India, and military budget 3 times as large. Trade between China and India is six times greater than that between China and Pakistan. Furthermore for Beijing, threats posed by India, while important, are not as important as those it faces in the east – that is, other regional issues and challenges, chiefly those emanating from the East Asian Littoral. Secondly, the security crisis in Pakistan (endangering the lives of the 13,000 Chinese workers in the country) and the Uighur dissent in China’s Xinjiang province (perceived to be further inflamed by the spread of militancy in Pakistan) have led Beijing to question the stability and security Pakistan can offer to advance Chinese economic interests, and also engenders mistrust where Pakistan is seen incapable or unwilling to manage terrorist trends that affect China. Diplomatic Relations By most accounts the flattering clichés often exchanged between Islamabad and Beijing in praise of their friendship is not an entire exaggeration.6 Leaders of both countries have typically been effusive and often poetic in describing their relationship.7 Since the inception of bilateral ties in May 1951 China and Pakistan have had relatively smooth diplomatic relations. The hyperbolic jargon use to describe the Sino-­‐Pak relationship is almost always used by top tier officials on both sides, pointing at the preeminence of diplomatic relations. This is chiefly because: 1) China is considered an all-­‐weather friendship; in that it will not abandon Pakistan as the US is known to have done; 2) self-­‐reliance; it offers a chance for 6 Ibid. 7 For example: “Lush tree with deep roots and thick foliage, full of vigour and vitality”; “Higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel”; and most recently during the Chinese premier’s visit to Pakistan in May 2013, he said: “The tree of China-­‐Pakistan friendship … is now exuberant with abundant fruits”; “Chinese Premier in Pakistan, Praising Ties”, Dawn, 8 Pakistan to stand on its own feet via transfer of technology, 3) counterpoise India, and 4) joint counter terrorism efforts.8 The blueprint of Sino-­‐Pak relationship precedes the present government in Islamabad; there is a deep understanding that no matter what government is in power, the relationship with China is deemed paramount.9 Every Pakistani government -­‐ civilian or military -­‐ has supported strong and friendly ties with China. Despite that Pakistan was tied to the US-­‐led western bloc through its membership of various military alliances, like CENTO and SEATO – which were arguably aimed at containing China – relations were forged between Pakistan and China, most notably at the 1954 Bandung Conference (a forerunner to the Non-­‐Aligned Movement) in Indonesia. Bandung provided an interface for initiating Pak-­‐China dialogue, where Islamabad assured its Chinese counterpart that it had joined SEATO to protect itself and not as a containment strategy or maneuvers against China.10 During this period China was reeling a revolution; it struggled with under-­‐development and a relative isolation from the world community at large. Pakistan played a pivotal role in entering China to world politics and forming a bridge between China and US. Islamabad prides itself in leading the campaign for the restoration of China’s legitimate right in UN. In China, Pakistan is remembered as “the bridge with which it crossed the river”.11 Pakistan bolstered China’s diplomatic position; President Ayub Khan supported China in UNSC. Pakistan at the time had British learning to impart and include China to the rest of the world.12 In 1971, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger officially visited Pakistan; during the trip, the latter facilitated Kissinger’s secret visit to China. This laid the foundation for a subsequent visit by President Nixon and the “opening up” of the Peoples Republic of China to the world. In the mindset of the Pakistani establishment, the event in Sino-­‐Pak history to have congealed Chinese trust and friendship is the role played by the latter in 8 Amb Arif Kamal, interview, Islamabad, June 2013. 22 May 2013. 9 Ibid. 10 Fazlur Rehman, interview, 4 July 2013. 11 Amb Khalid Mahmood, interview, 2 July 2013. 12 Fazlur Rehman, Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII), interview, Islamabad, 4 July 2013. 9 enabling mainland China to be recognized by the US and the world community. China it is frequently said has “not forgotten” the help provided by Pakistan in this regard.13 At Bandung, Pakistan had also communicated to China the threat India posed.14 While during the 50s, Indo-­‐China relationship had been hailed under the slogan of Hindi Cheeni bhai bhai (“Hindu and Chinese are brothers”), the 1962 border conflict between India and China invited Islamabad with an opportunity to water the seeds of the friendship planted at Bandung. India was effectively catapulted as the main overlapping regional interest to adjoin Beijing and Islamabad. The relationship sprouted further with the emergence of the Non-­‐Aligned Movement (NAM), an organization formed in Belgrade in 1961 consisting of groups of states not formally aligned with or against any power bloc, and by the prevailing Sino-­‐Soviet schism that was accompanied by an Indo-­‐Soviet alliance.15 Convergence of threat perceptions, strategic interests, and shared approach to major regional and global developments drives Sino-­‐Pak diplomatic liaison. In this context, the Agreement to establish Annual Meeting Mechanism at the leadership and Dialogue Mechanism at the Foreign Ministers level is of strategic significance. There could be said to exist a genuine and mutual appreciation, understanding and respect, especially at the state-­‐to-­‐state level. Strict fidelity to the Five Principles of Peaceful Existence is often hailed as the hallmark of this unique union. The Five Principles of Peaceful Existence was first formally codified in a treaty between China and India in 1954 and pivoted on the following 5 tenets: 1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty 2. Mutual non-­‐aggression 3. Mutual non-­‐interference in each other’s internal affairs 4. Equality and mutual benefit 5. Peaceful co-­‐existence 13 Academics and former diplomats, interviews, Islamabad, June/July 2013. 14 Ibid. 15 Statement by Amb Khalid Mahmood, Seminar on “Strategic Environment and Its Fallout on Regional Security and Economic Development” at National Defense University, Islamabad, 3-­‐4 April 2012. 10 China itself often associates itself closely with the Five Principles.16 As China and India lapsed on the agreement, entering into conflicts, Pakistan’s adherence to the Principles was highlighted. 17 While China has warred with or continues to experience confrontations with many of its 22 geographic neighbors – including Korea, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, India – Pakistan remains one of the few neighbors with whom Beijing has not clashed. Territory in Kashmir held the potential of a border dispute between China-­‐Pakistan, as demarcations were not clear. Yet in 1963, Pakistan quietly handed over 5,180 square kilometers of Kashmir to China.18 However, according to some experts and despite what is often presumed in Pakistan, it was China that ceded territory to Pakistan. 19 Nevertheless, the issue was amicably resolved, reflecting and further solidifying Sino-­‐ Pak bonds. The reason for no serious contention having sparked is buttressed largely in the fact that Sino-­‐Pak security concerns do not clash.20 Indeed Islamabad lends support to all major political issues pertinent to China, including the latter’s right to Taiwan and its claim over other contested territories in the region, supporting the “One China” policy.21 In turn, China – a rising global player -­‐ upholds a record of defending Pakistan in world bodies and international forums and promulgating Pakistani interests. At the United Nations Security Council, for instance, China used its veto power at Bangladesh’s request to join United Nations, imposing the condition that Pakistani Prisoners of War (POWs) are returned first. A source of dissonance threatening to jangle Sino-­‐Pak friendship was/is the threats springing from terrorism and instability in Pakistan. However, despite the seriousness of the issue of Uighur militancy that China faces, and one that has been interlinked to terrorist havens in Pakistan, state-­‐to-­‐state relations remain resolute. Instead, there 16 “Backgrounder: Five principles of peaceful coexistence”, Xinhuanet. 8 April 2005. 17 Fazl-­‐ur Rehman, “Pakistan-­‐China Relations at 60”, China.org.cn, 20 May 2011; Amb. Khalid Mahmood, NDU seminar, April 2012. 18 “India-­‐China Border Dispute”, GlobalSecurity.org, 19 Fazlur Rehman, interview, 4 July 2013; “Sino-­‐Pakistan Boundary”, Dawn, 9 Janua...
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