Pakistan-China Relations Soar After Pakistan’s Declaration of Solidarity
On February 6, the Chinese State Commissioner for Counter Terrorism and Security, Cheng Guoping, met Tariq Fatemi, the special assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on foreign affairs, during a visit to Pakistan. Dawn newspaper released a press statement from the foreign ministry of Pakistan, which stated that Pakistan will maintain its support for Chinese efforts in battling terrorism, extremism, and separatism. In addition, Pakistan reaffirmed its backing of China on all core issues and declared its solidarity with China, should any external actor attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty.
China previously supported Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy, national security, and territorial integrity. Guoping confirmed that the maintenance of relations with Pakistan was a top priority for China. The Chinese state Commissioner proceeded to congratulate Pakistan on its achievements in maintaining peace and regional stability.
Diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan are especially important given the shared economic development taking place between both countries. According to the press release, a central aspect of their bilateral relationship and a key topic of discussion during the meeting was the need to increase the speed of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an initiative that formally began in November 2016. The CPEC organization’s main aim is to enhance economic cooperation between these two countries through construction of extensive roads, railways, and energy infrastructure. The two countries also intend to collaborate over universities, research think-tanks, and other institutions. News International reported that the Chinese government has recently decided to invest
almost Rs. 25 billion into constructing a highway network to improve the connectivity between the two countries. CPEC has been termed a “game-changer” for Pakistan by many politicians and journalists, and to date is the largest foreign investment directed into Pakistan.
However, despite these benefits, the Herald emphasizes that Pakistanis still harbor reservations regarding CPEC, particularly the time it will take to bring about results. Regional instability, lack of sustained funds, and a fear of debt undermine optimism for the project. Moreover, China’s interest in constructing a direct route from the Pakistani port of Gwadar to Kashgar in the Xinjiang province raises questions as to whether or not it will invest in sub-routes. These routes are intended to uplift under-developed Pakistani cities and towns and make them more accessible.
These reservations, however,were more valid before the initiative began. The visit by the State Commissioner indicates that both countries realize the potential benefits from sustained, accelerated cooperation, even outside the realm of economic development. Pakistan’s decision to stand firm behind China in the case of unwanted foreign intervention and China’s acknowledgement of Pakistan’s security struggles are indicators of a durable, supportive relationship between the two neighbors.