Is China’s friendship good for Pakistan in the coming decades?

China’s primary focus is on furthering its economic dominance, and its six-decade long ties with Pakistan is only secondary to that

opinion Updated: Sep 13, 2017 12:49 IST
A Pakistan national flag flies alongside a Chinese national flag in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong at Beijing's Tiananmen Square (File Photo)(REUTERS)

Pakistan and China have almost 67 years of diplomatic relations which are gaining strength with the passage of time.

Over the years, the bilateral ties have been described by both Beijing and Islamabad as “all-weather”, “time-tested”, “stronger than steel”, etc. All these expressions reflect the strength of the relationship built over the past six decades.

Beijing provides diplomatic support, economic investment and arms and technology for Pakistan. A major Chinese initiative on this front is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), where China has invested $46 billion to connect Kashgar, Xinjiang in China to Gwadar, Balochistan in the Arabian Sea.

But what is China’s main vision? It is to have the largest network of road, rail and maritime routes, which will further spread China’s economy. The One Belt One Road (OBOR), of which the CPEC is a part and lays the foundation for this economic vision. Tension in the South China Sea has meant that China’s focus has turned to the east. The CPEC is in full swing, but India is reluctant to be a part of the initiatives. And it is here that Myanmar becomes important for China.

A friendly government in Myanmar will go a long way in ensuring China’s economic interests in the region are safeguarded. Peace in the region is important for China’s economic ambitions. This is probably one of the reasons why Beijing has expressed support to Myanmar’s military crackdown on the minority Muslim Rohingyas.

Given this, Pakistan must introspect: In future, if the choice was between furthering its economic dominance and standing by Pakistan, which would China choose?

The jury is out on that!

Anas Saleem is a freelance writer in Pakistan

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Sep 13, 2017 12:49 IST