China and Pakistan: Towards Increasing Dissonance?

Presentation titled, “Sino-Pak Partnership: Changing Strategically” at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 2013.

A. an important objective of the Sino-Pak relationship is to keep India off-balance.

a. Sino-Pak military cooperation is the primary method                                 i.      this involves the Chinese sale of conventional weapons  as well as earlier transfers of nuclear weapons

ii.      today, there is also transfer of civilian nuclear technology that can no doubt be put to dual use by Pakistan

iii.      cooperation with the Chinese military further strengthens the Pak military and helps to undermine still further the Pak civilian government’s attempts at putting down deep roots.

iv.      however, could there also be Chinese concerns about Pakistani military capabilities, if not Pakistani reliability in general, given the Abbottabad attack on Osama bin Laden’s hide-out by US special forces?

b. Sino-Pak political cooperation is secondary   i.      this cooperation between the governments has changed in nature over time

ii.      the political realm sees mostly rhetorical commitments

  • on Kashmir – stapled visas to Indian Kashmiris has so far been only a minor irritant in Sino-Indian relations

iii.      there is also increasing Chinese worry over the general instability in Pakistan

  • which in turn spills over across the border with China in the form of radicalization of the Uyghur separatist movement in Xinjiang.
  • the instability in the Uyghur-majority province is an increasingly serious problem for Beijing and has caused it to directly criticize Pakistan  on occasion.
  • instability and radicalization in Pakistan also complicates the situation in Afghanistan, again a neighbour of China’s and where Chinese companies are heavily invested or seeking to do so
Is there enough fuel in the Sino-Pak tank?
Is there enough fuel in the Sino-Pak tank?

iv.      Chinese commitment to Pakistan is now increasingly in the economic realm

  • Chinese companies have increased their involvement in the Pakistani economy substantially over the years
  • mostly in the infrastructure development (such as the Karakoram Highway and the Gwadar port  and telecom sectors (Chinese companies include ZTE)

B. India is the Swing Factor

i.      New Delhi ought to realize that given the size and potential of the Indian economy, Chinese companies and entrepreneurs will always value the Indian market

ii.      India’s foreign policy is designed to make positive contributions to the world order, and hence, it has an image of benign force for the global good.

  • this is in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s image as a regional and global problem,
  • and means that India is the more important regional and global actor with which China must of necessity interact and

iii.      in other words,

  • China cannot long afford to use Pakistan as a counterweight to India – the gap between the two South Asian countries is growing
  • and China has developed its own set of concerns vis-à-vis Pakistan

iv.      it therefore depends on India if it can make use of this interregnum of Chinese unease with Pakistan to

  • push forward its own relations with China
  • and improve Indo-Pak relations, so that the Pakistan factor in Sino-Indian relations can be effectively neutralized
  • and/or ensure – either with China or with the help of other countries – that the Pakistan army and other hostile elements in that country are divested of their ability to create mischief in Indo-Pak relations.
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