By Sajjad Shaukat
The recent visit of Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani to China is being viewed with great anticipation owing to the unilateral operation conducted by the US forces on Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, and US coercive diplomacy, emphasizing old American maxim to ‘do more’ against the militants. In this regard, on May 18, this year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reaffirmed that the two countries will maintain an all-weather friendship.
While, supporting Pakistan’s stance and strategy to fight terror, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao informed Pakistan’s prime minister that during the recently held third-round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, Beijing had conveyed to Washington that no country has the right to violate another country’s sovereignty, thereby making clear China’s stance on the US violation of Pakistan’s airspace to attack Osama bin Laden. China asked the US to “recognise the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror, understand its problems and address its concerns.” Without naming India and America, both the leaders also agreed that Afghanistan is a sensitive issue and there should be no external interference there.
After the talks, Pakistan and China signed three agreements: between the State Bank of Pakistan and China’s Banking Regulatory Authority—and for the extension of China’s lease of Saindak Gold and Copper Mining for another five years and for economic and technical cooperation. China will also send free trade purchase commissions to Pakistan to help Islamabad reduce its trade deficit, and will offer scholarships to 500 Pakistani students for studies in Chinese educational institutions.
Besides, Pakistan and China have agreed to enhance defence cooperation and China will help to build Pakistan’s capacity in all three services.
In the recent past, during Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Beijing, Pakistan and China had reaffirmed to strengthen strategic ties and took concrete measures to further bring their people closer. Both the countries had signed six deals of cooperation in the areas of agriculture, healthcare, justice, media, economy and technology. On trade cooperation, Jintao had said that China would explore new ways to cooperate in the areas such as energy, transportation, telecommunication etc. Beijing also pledged to provide a grant of 7.3 million dollars to Pakistan for new development projects.
“China is a friend and a strategic partner, committed to the promotion of stability and economic progress of Pakistan” is how Jintao had summed up the strategic relations.
Nevertheless, the two leaders had discussed a host of issues relating to strategic partnership. The most prominent area of this bolstering of ties—especially for the world is the Sino-Pak civilian nuclear deal which is now beginning to see complete formalisation and initiation. It is unfortunate that the US has expressed its concerns about this deal, where the main goal is to address the acute power crisis in Pakistan. While rejecting US objections, China has repeatedly clarified that it will supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan under the old nuclear deal.
As regards the legitimacy of Pak-China nuclear deal, Qin Gang, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has already made it clear, saying: “the nuclear cooperation between the two countries is for peaceful purposes and is totally in consistent with its international obligations and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA).”
It is also regrettable that, until now, we have been denied the same right to civil nuclear technology that India was granted by the US in 2008. It provides the precedent, and in fact, has opened the door for any similar sort of nuclear deal in the future. Both India and the US have no legal and moral grounds to challenge the legality of the Pak-China nuclear deal. It is rather ironic that the ‘original sinner’ was granted a waiver for its transgressions, as India used its civil nuclear technology for the development of nuclear weapons first, igniting the nuclear arms race in South Asia.
When Pak-China nuclear deal was initiated in 1986, China was not a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) nor had it signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it did so in 1992 and joined the NSG in 2004. However, despite international pressures, Beijing and Islamabad are determined to go ahead in relation to nuclear cooperation and are working towards sustained development in Pakistan. Given the worsening energy crisis in our country and the problems in this area—China’s export of nuclear reactors to Pakistan is a hugely positive step towards addressing the energy shortage.
China and Pakistan plan on building a rail link, which would pass through Gilgit-Baltistan near the Karakoram Highway. This has sparked a debate in India. In this regard, Indian Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said, “It is definitely a matter of concern.”
Notably, despite showing more cooperation with our country, the main aim of the US including its allies like India and Israel remains to de-nuclearise Pakistan. Moreover, ideal geo-strategic location of Pakistan with the Gwader port, linking Central and South Asia entailing Islamabad’s close ties with China pinches the eyes of US, India and Israel which are in collusion to destabilise Pakistan for their common interests.
It is due to these reasons that Pakistan, its army and intelligence agency, ISI have become special target of the external plot, even under the Obama Administration. Availing the opportunity of the western propaganda, CIA, RAW and Mossad have also increased their secret activities against Pakistan by supporting subversive acts like bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeted killings in the country, while backing the insurgents of Balochistan.
It is mentionable that the US intends to control Balochistan as an independent state in counterbalancing China and containing Iran. Therefore, America and India are creating instability in Pakistan by supporting Baloch separatists to complete their hidden agenda.
Plot by foreign elements against Balochistan and China could also be judged from the “Indian Defence Review,” of Jan-Mar 2009. The Review, while suggesting the disintegration of Pakistan, wrote that for New Delhi, “this opens a window of opportunity to ensure that the Gwadar port does not fall into the hand of China. Afghanistan will gain stability…India’s access to Central Asian energy routes will open up.”
It is of particular attention that the revelations of Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer during his interview to the Indian weekly Outlook as published on February 18, 2008 had surprised Pakistan, China and the Middle East. On a question regarding India’s defence arrangements with Israel, Sofer while indicating two identical situations, disclosed “We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret. On the other hand, what is secret is the defence relationship”. And “with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.”
In fact, external plot against Balochistan is part of the conspiracy against Pakistan and China—not tolerated by the US, India and Israel which have been trying to virtually besiege particularly our country as noted through a perennial wave of subversive acts and drone attacks.
Nonetheless, it needs to be reminded that China is one of the few countries that has always remained Pakistan’s strong ally, one that has never failed in coming to our aid. In the new world order where the US is evidently siding with India as a counterweight to China’s rapid economic expansion and growing power, Pakistan is China’s most dependable friend. In these terms, Prime Minister Gilani’s trip is a reinforcement of the deep and long lasting ties both countries have always enjoyed. In the face of US double game with Islamabad and continued pressure, it has been Beijing which has supported Pakistan’s stance. Especially, at this critical juncture when US duplicity with Islamabad has intensified in the aftermath of the Osama episode, China has proved ever-supportive ally of Pakistan by recognising its sacrifices in relation to war against terrorism—and also asking the US-led west to recognise the same.
It is because of the above mentioned reasons that Pak-China friendship is strengthening, and both the countries are making efforts to further enhance their strategic ties.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations