Pakistan and China have maintained solid ties for six decades. In 1951, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China founded two years earlier. Traditionally close, cooperative, cordial and friendly relations between China and Pakistan are based on mutual interests and shared principles leading to cooperation in various fields.
Chinese President Xi Jinping just finished a landmark two-day visit to Islamabad. His visit could be considered as a practical part of the New Asian Security concept. It is featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination and supports the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the League of Arab States in playing a positive role in regional and bilateral affairs.
During Xi Jinping’s visit, Pakistan and China signed 51 memorandums of understanding relating to diverse aspects of bilateral relations, including the proposed $46bn Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The CPEC project envisions Chinese investment fuelling highways, railways, electricity, pipelines and other projects that would create a trade route from the Western Chinese city of Kashgar to the Southern Pakistani port of Gwadar. The route would be used as a primary gateway for trade between China and the Middle East.
While many observers believe that Pakistand and China have held close diplomatic, military and economic relations, but CPEC would represent the Chinese regional hegemony. It somehow solidifies the economic advantages against Pakistan’s historical rival of India and regional rival United States and boosts its influence in Central and South Asia.
Some critics have also raised the question over Pakistan’s ability to take up CPEC investment, which has been provided despite its constant problems with terrorism, separatism, militancy and official corruption. But these same critics don’t realize that CPEC investment would be beneficial for the people as a whole. In fact, CPEC will benefit all provinces of Pakistan and transform it into a regional hub and pivot for commerce and investment. It will also enable China to create a shorter and cheaper route for trade and investment in south, central and west Asia, and the Middle East and Africa. This corridor will become a symbol for peace and prosperity.
As far as the security situation of Pakistan is concerned, the military and the government have adopted a zero tolerance policy for eliminating extremism and terrorism from the country and situation is improving as compared to 2013.Additionally, China is a major contributor toward Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism. Both states believe that their security interests are closely interconnected.
President Xi Jinping also mentioned in his article ‘Long live the friendship between the people of Pakistan’ — published in Pakistani newspapers — that “China and Pakistan need to align security concerns more closely to strengthen security cooperation. The security interests of China and Pakistan are closely related. Our cooperation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously. We need to deepen defence cooperation and enhance coordination and collaboration on regional hotspot issues.”
It is true that China’s peaceful development begins in Asia, finds its support in Asia, and delivers tangible benefits to Asia, no matter whether it is South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia or West Asia. China has always strengthened security dialogue and cooperation with other states and jointly explored the formulation of a code of conduct for regional security and an Asian security partnership program, making Asian countries good partners that trust one another and cooperate on an equal footing. Good examples of this are seen regarding the economic cooperation with respect to Chinese bilateral relations and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The visit of President Xi to Pakistan is a presentation of his vision for New Asian Security, which is not limited to any particular country, but to whole Asia. While Pakistan has its own importance, according to Senator Mushahid Hussain ‘Pakistan, for China, is now of pivotal importance. This has to succeed and be seen to succeed.’