Historically, Pakistan was the first Islamic country, the second Commonwealth and the third non-Communist state that recognised newly established People’s Republic of China on January 4, 1950. Diplomatic relationships were established between both countries in 1951. Pakistan’s staunch support for the restoration of China’s seat at UNSC as a permanent member in 1961, the signing of the Boundary Agreement in 1963, and Pakistan’s role as facilitator in bringing about a rapprochement between China and United States in the early 1970s are all milestones that marked the history of bilateral ties. Cooperation between two countries is in multiple fields; political, economic, defence and nuclear, technological, infrastructural, educational, energy projects and strategic communication arenas.
Development of Gwadar Port and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) further cemented the bilateral relationship between both friendly states. Both traditional neighbours have common geo-political interests, common geo-strategic concerns, and a common vision for the future of the regional peace, stability and economic prosperity, strengthening through bilateral cooperation. Pakistan continues to maintain unwavering support for the core Chinese concerns of Taiwan, Tibet, and South China Sea. On its part, China has always extended its overt support to Pakistan on sovereignty, socio-economic development and contributions against terrorism. China has maintained a constant view on the disputed nature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It always support Pakistani view on Kashmir and rejected the Indian occupation over a vast area of the state.
A former Chinese Ambassador, Mr Liu Jian has once said that, ties between China and have “gone beyond bilateral dimensions and acquired broader regional and international ramifications.” As cooperation between the two countries has deepened, expanding and evolving in accordance with the dictates of new geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic realities, certain states have sounded alarm bells. The concerns voiced by these countries stem from a skewed perception of the political compulsions and strategic interests of both China and Pakistan. Moreover, these perceptions and the responses they generate are also conditioned by facts such as Pakistan’s geographical location, the prevailing security environment in the region, and prospective interests of new allies in the region. By virtue of its physical location, Pakistan is considered as the geographical pivot of history. Traditionally this piece of land has been used as a linkage between Central, West, South, and East Asia and ties the surrounding regions into a web while acting as the hub. It provides a natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia and offers the shortest overland route to facilitate intra- and inter-regional trade and energy exchanges. With the increase in the means of communication and diversification of the transportation routes, it is impossible for the surrounding countries and interested actors to ignore Pakistan. Gwadar and CPEC have further boosted the geopolitical significance of Pakistan for all regional countries.
Pakistan is ideally suited to cater for the energy needs of the surrounding states. It lies in close proximity to the hydrocarbon rich Central Asian Republics (CARs) and the oil rich Middle Eastern countries. Not only does it act as the quickest overland route for the transfer of hydrocarbon resources to China but also provides China with the shortest natural pathway to the warm waters; the Arabian Sea and to the strategic shipping lanes through which Gulf oil is shipped all over the world. The project of CPEC will further supplement these traditional bonds.
Development and operationalisation of Gwadar Port has long been viewed as a key location with tremendous potential to become a major regional commercial and transhipment hub. The port was constructed with heavy Chinese investment and currently, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is in the process of its completion by 2030. The current trade route for Chinese exports is from Shanghai to Dubai, via the Indian Ocean, covering a distance of about 12000 KMs. Upon completion of CPEC, it will be re-routed to travel from Urumqi to Gwadar via Khunjerab, reducing 5000 miles in distance and several days in transit time for Chinese consumer goods being exported to the world markets. Gwadar’s geographical location is of significant military, economic, as well as strategic value. It is 72 km away from Iran, and lies at about 400 km from the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial chokepoint point through which the countries of the Gulf region transport 17 million barrels of crude oil to the world every day. It will be a natural port for the land-locked and energy rich CARs, and Afghanistan.
Over the years, the traditional friendship of China and Pakistan has reached to new heights and the friendship gets deeper and stronger. Indeed, the Sino-Pak relationship has a unique distinction that, despite many ups and down at regional level and global arena, there has been consistency and betterment in the bilateral relationship of both countries without a single fissure noted ever. Sino-Pak relationship has all dimensions; the strategic, political, economic and social. The political leadership of both countries initiated and set the sound basis for this great relationship. The strategic nature of Sino-Pak relationship, which essentially emanates from the national interests of both countries are attributed as, “community of common destiny”. This is not merely a symbolic phrase but, truly unite the destinies of both nations; strategically, politically, economically, militarily and finally in the field of social interaction. The contemporary regional and global strategic and economic developments indeed, dictate a high degree of cooperation and coordination in all fields between Pakistan and China.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.
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