Out to consolidate an all-weather friendship indeed

By Khalid Rahman
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, May 22, 2013
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The two countries have generally enjoyed a high level of mutual confidence. A 2012 Gallup report says that 67 percent Pakistanis view China as the friendliest country. In a follow-up question, 49 percent Pakistanis said they believed the United States to be Pakistan's biggest enemy, followed by India (24 percent). Debates on Pakistan's foreign and security policies during the campaigns for the recently held elections and the elections' outcome also point to this reality.

But extra-regional players and their allies in the region are covertly and overtly trying to dent the mutual confidence between China and Pakistan for their own interests. High-level interactions between China and Pakistan at this point of time send out a clear message that the bilateral bond is strong enough to respond to emerging challenges. They will also reflect the importance China attaches to Pakistan and intimate all stakeholders that the two countries agree on the developments and alignments in the region, which have long-term implications on their bilateral relationship as well as on peace and security in the region.

Do Sino-Indian rapprochement and Li's decision to visit India and Pakistan on his maiden foreign trip as premier point to any change in Sino-Pakistani relations? The answer is "no", because despite having some common denominators the dynamics of Sino-Indian and Sino-Pakistani relations have, to a large extent, become mutually exclusive in recent years. China's evolving economic relations with India has nothing to do with the factors that continue to strengthen Sino-Pakistani ties.

Apart from political and strategic cooperation, China and Pakistan offer considerable economic opportunities to each other. China's cooperation with Pakistan on Gwadar Port - which provides China access to the Gulf besides offering landlocked Central Asian countries a route to the Arabian Sea - is one such example. It also reflects the immense technical assistance Beijing offers to Islamabad and shows Pakistan's significance as an energy corridor for the world's second-largest consumer of oil.

The growing role of the US, with its leaning towards India and vice-versa, in the region is supposed to be a source of concern for China, not only for its own interest but also in the interests of the whole region. Moreover, the recent border standoff between India and China, though resolved, is also an indication of the ups and downs in Sino-Indian relations. In contrast, Sino-Pakistani relations have progressed smoothly on the basis of mutual trust, signifying their "all-weather friendship".

The author is director general of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan.


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