Category: China Research Desk

China-Pakistan Relations—The Road Ahead

China-Pakistan Relations—The Road Ahead

Pakistan and China are two of the closest states in terms of positive bilateral relations. They have had relations which date back to the era of decolonization. The premise of the relationship between Pakistan and China depends largely on mutual needs which are not just political but economic, strategic, diplomatic and even security based. The history of the two states is not a convoluted one it is simplistic; the two states have had each other’s back, even at a time when Pakistan was a forefront US ally and the latter state did not approve much of the growing bond between Pakistan and China. Yet over time this bond only grew since the added aspect was that both states happen to be neighbours. Another factor which amounted to the two nations growing closer ties was the insecurity both Pakistan and China faced due to the India factor.

In the past five year, perhaps this relationship has grown on a massive scale and much of this is because of the Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of which CPEC is a mega-project. Because of this project there has been projected a large scale of development of not just Pakistan but of the entire region. As a result, China will be attaining massive economic benefits in its race of economic power within the bigger powers. Thus the past government of Pakistan put all of their weight behind the CPEC project. The regional connectivity serves Pakistan quite feasibly since the state aims to enhance its development and trade as well. All in all, the previous government had chalked up a rather vast map towards closer cooperation with the Chinese in economy, military and strategic characteristics along with making CPEC not just a bilateral but a regional as well as international reality.

After the 2018 General Elections in Pakistan, the domestic dynamics have largely changed in that there is not just a change of government but a change of faces and a new political party has made its way to power. They have their own ideology and agenda which is poles apart from the previous party in power. Of course this makes the concerned channels wonder what is to become of the CPEC and whether or not China will be as close to Pakistan as it was in the last tenured management. 

But things seem to be settled up because the new government has shown many positive signs of maintaining cordial ties and augmenting them with China. The first speech of the Prime Minister Imran Khan specifically pin pointed the importance of the China-Pakistan relations. In fact China happens to be on the forefront of the foreign policy agenda. The foreign office has specifically claimed that because of the push back in the US-Pakistan relations, China has taken the chief place in the foreign policy agenda. The reason for that happens to be the fact that China will probably not cease to be important for Pakistan and vice versa. This gives Pakistan an edge in the development plans of the coming century.

Pakistan’s is an economy which might meet with ups and downs but regardless of that, it is a steadily growing economy. China has very recently promised to aid and help Pakistan in its economic disparities and claimed that it will push its agenda ahead as well. But obviously for that, there must be some mechanisms which would move the relationship of China and Pakistan ahead under a new management and that too a novice one, making it a challenge for Pakistan. In this course of things, the new government also needs to plan how CPEC ought to be moved forward. Given the magnanimity of the project one wrong move and there could be trouble for the entire development scheme.

First of all, the new government of ought to expand on the soft power aspects of the Pakistan-China relations a bit more and open up channels of more people-people contacts. Then the government needs to build up diplomatic channels because there is new management which might not be familiar with the Chinese side and vice versa. As long as there is a gap in the leaders and no dialogue there is going to be a lag in the overall relations. The new government ought to make the Chinese side comfortable and reassure them that they are as serious about the relations as much as they are.

Furthermore, the new management also needs to cater to the security gaps which are present and pose as a threat to CPEC. If the new leadership assures of ridding discrepancies and acting on it, the relations will automatically be rid of any misnomers. The Chinese side is already tilted toward Pakistan and the new leadership needs to act swiftly on this turn. They need to open up the political channels between themselves and the Chinese side in order to achieve maximum closure. This will work in the larger run for the benefit of CPEC as well. 

Apart from China, there are many other states which are willing to become a part of CPEC and the new management ought to work on bilateral relations with these states as well. Not only will that be beneficial for the mega-project but also for Pakistan’s own trade and economic emancipation capacity. 

With the new government in Pakistan, there can be a new working scheme for the domestic politics surrounding CPEC and its routes. This already proved to be quite cumbersome and the Chinese side had certain apprehensions. The new government can find new political headways to resolve all these issues. This will work like the domino effect; one domestic issue resolved will automatically lead to the opening of channels for the resolution of other issues.

The new government needs to realize that the situation surrounding security is pretty vulnerable to CPEC which is necessary for the cooperation between Pakistan and China. There need to be proper ways and mechanisms for opening up of new ways, measures and channels for the advancement of Pakistan-China relations. These are requires for the security of Pakistan and even China especially in the coming periods of anarchy which surrounds the international arena.