Why does China like Pakistan so much?
On Sunday, the BRICS leaders have unanimously adopted the Goa Declaration that pledged opposition to terrorism. However, India failed to get a consensus from its partners against “state-sponsored” terrorism as many offered no assurance on supporting the country’s efforts to isolate Pakistan. In a major blow, China refused to support New Delhi’s bid on a UN ban against Pakistan-based militant leader Masood Azhar.
China still remains Pakistan’s best-friend though many countries have condemned the Uri attack and backed India’s surgical strike. As India hinted a withdrawal from the Indus Waters Treaty as part of a restructured policy towards Pakistan, the unhappy China is reportedly planning to block a tributary of Brahmaputra, in the name of new dam in Tibet indeed. What prompts China to generously offer its support to Pakistan while many others criticize its soft stand on terrorism? What gives Pakistan a unique position in Chinese diplomatic circles?
Trade matters between neighbours
Recent economic data reveals that Islamabad is the biggest trade partner of Beijing. In fiscal year 2014-15, the trade volume between the countries increased by 18.2 per cent. Wu Guoquan, the director of Department of Asian Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, recently said the bilateral trade between the neighbours registered a ten per cent ($4.4bn) increase in the first three months of current fiscal year as compared to the same period in 2015.
Strong military ties
In addition to the concrete economic ties, Pakistan remains the largest importer of arms from China as the country sells 35% share of its total military export to Pakistan. Recently, Pakistan Navy announced its decision to buy eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines from China in one of the biggest arms export deal between the countries. In the recent past, both the countries have also conducted joint military exercises in a bid to strengthen their forces.
China & Pak: biggest strategic allies in Asia
The Chinese state media often describes Pakistan as the country’s only “all-weather strategic cooperation partner.” What appears to be part of a give and take strategy, both countries have backed each other in various diplomatic issues. China recently blocked India’s bid for membership of Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) by bringing up Pak’s similar cause. In the past, Pakistan shielded China over Beijing’s crackdowns on its Muslim Uyghur community and also backed Beijing over the South China Sea issue.
Apart from supporting Pak membership in NSG, China has made several attempts earlier to help Pakistan acquire the nuclear capabilities. Many reports suggest that China helped develop Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the 1980s and 1990s. Besides the nuclear weapons programme, Beijing has also built six nuclear reactors in Pakistan over the past two decades and also planning to help construct at least two more, Reuters reported.
Economic corridor and other co-projects
More than any other reasons, what prompts China to support Pakistan is the investments Beijing made in its neighbour’s land. The $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, a highway which is to run from Kashgar in China to Gwadar in Balochistan, is a major project among many. Running through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the CPEC is expected to be a “game changer” in the relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.