1. Chinese foreign minister expressed unconditional support for Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.
2. Calls on the international community to appreciate Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.
3. No deviation in China’s Pakistan’s policy after BRICS.
4. China has lot of investment at stake in Pakistan citing economic and security concerns.
5. China announced upcoming trilateral foreign ministers meet between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in China later this year.
The Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Wang Yi on Friday expressed unconditional support for Pakistan in what he called as Pakistan’s big sacrifices the War on Terror. This came after all five countries at the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen, including China, condemned among others some Pakistan-based terror outfits carrying out cross-border attacks in India and Afghanistan.
Wang in an indirect reference to India and the United States said that “some countries” needed to recognize Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts after the Trump administration accused Pakistan of supporting terrorists and warning of dire consequences if it continued to do so. Wang’s statement came after a meeting in Beijing with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif, and just four days after China’s agreement with the BRICS declaration on Pakistan-based terrorism.
The BRICS declaration expressed worry regarding violence caused by “the Taliban, Islamic State (IS), Al Qaida and its affiliates like the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb ut-Tahrir”, though it did not name explicitly call out Pakistan by name or suggest it was complicit.
The Chinese foreign minister’s comments suggest China agreeing with the other BRICS members may not necessarily suggest an alteration in Beijing’s policy of supporting Pakistan diplomatically on terrorism charges, like for example by vetoing efforts to sanction Pakistani terrorist and JeM leader Masood Azhar at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Wang said that terrorism was an international problem and countries should not indulge in any sort of blame game with each other but should rather cooperate together to eradicate the menace. Wang said, “Pakistan is a good brother and iron friend of China. No one knows Pakistan and understands Pakistan better than China. For years Pakistan has been a victim of terror and more importantly Pakistan is an important participant in international cooperation against terrorism.”
China-Pakistan axis in Afghanistan
The PRC invited Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for discussions on Thursday, two days after the BRICS summit got over. Wang told the press on Friday after the meeting that the Sino-Pak relationship was “unbreakable” and had “become a steady anchor for regional peace”.
Both ministers deliberated on increasing cooperation in Afghanistan, particularly against the fallout of US President Donald Trump announcing his new Afghan war plan. Wang said the first ever China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign ministers’ trilateral meet would be held in Beijing later this year. Regarding Trump’s new Afghanistan plan, which also called on India to play a bigger role in enhancing security that caused worry in Pakistan, Wang said China hoped it would “accommodate the legitimate security concerns of regional countries”.
China’s stakes in Pakistan
China has a lot of strategic and security concerns at stake in Pakistan. China has invested about $46 billion worth of infrastructure development projects in Pakistan as a part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The most notable of these being the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that would connect the coastal town of Gwadar in Baluchistan to Kashgar in Xinjiang via Gilgit Baltistan (GB) in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). This network of ports and roads would grant China much needed direct access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf through which a major chunk of China’s energy imports pass. This would give China a beachhead right in India’s neighborhood as well as reduce transportation distance and time to China’s mainland of imports from the Middle East that has to pass through the narrow Strait of Malacca which is susceptible to blockade by China’s rivals.
The port of Gwadar was open for operations last year and has since been a cause of worry as Chinese People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships are supposed to be docked there for added security. This would potentially turn into a dual use overseas naval base for China to counter India’s blockading efforts near Karachi. CPEC is also instrumental into providing much needed infrastructure development and economic prospects in China’s Xinjiang province that is also facing the challenge of an Islamic fundamentalist movement under the ETIM terror outfit and which lacks in many areas when compared with China’s eastern provinces.
Also Gwadar is located in Balochistan which for decades is facing an insurgency, allegedly supported by Indian intelligence, opposing the Pakistani government as well as the CPEC which many Balochis see as not benefitting them in any way and just bringing financial benefits to Punjabi Muslim overlords and Chinese businesses, something along the lines that happened regarding the development of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, by falling into a Chinese debt trap. If there is instability in nuclear armed Pakistan due to US or Indian actions then China faces a lot of loss. This was why India signed the Logistics Exchange Memoranda of Agreement (LEMOA) pact with the US, which gave the US access to Indian naval facilities, the Chinese responded by selling the Pakistani Navy eight diesel-electric attack submarines designed to hamper the Indian Navy’s attempts at blockading Karachi in times of war.
Sino-Pak cooperation go back a long way to when China defeated India in the 1962 Sino-Indian border war, after which starting in 1963-64 Pakistan ceded parts of POK to China to construct the Karakoram Highway, establishing land connectivity between the two nations.