Getting Closer


One of the most interesting relationships in the Asia-Pacific is that between China and Pakistan. Ties between the two tend to get overlooked, with much of the focus of Pakistan-related commentary falling on its ties with the United States. But a report earlier this year by the German Marshall Fund took a useful look at the prospects for China playing a greater role in stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan, describing Beijing as a one of the most ‘promising’ sources of leverage. It argues:

‘With China’s own interests so vitally at stake–particularly in Pakistan–analysts close to the Chinese government have been suggesting that Afghanistan-Pakistan could become the most important area of strategic cooperation between China and the West.’

But it goes on to point out:

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‘Despite the stakes, China continues to be apprehensive about co¬operating with the West in addressing these challenges. Any risk of jeopardizing-or opening up to scrutiny-what has been arguably China’s closest alliance over the past 50 years is viewed with trepida¬tion. As one former Chinese diplomat put it: “The relationship goes as deep as you can imagine. Pakistan’s friends in China are not just the people who’ve passed through the South Asia desk but those who’ve seen Pakistan’s support on Taiwan, Tibet, in international organizations, arms control, and disarmament. Not to mention the military.”‘

Pakistan for its part, not only embraces the relationship, but according to a report in The Dawn newspaper today seems determined to expand ties further in the IT sector:

‘Emphasising the strategic importance, which the current government attached to the use and role of ICTs for tangible improvements in all spheres of life, (Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani) called for focused approach towards driving technology adoption.

‘The Prime Minister was talking to a group of high-level executives of Chinese telecom manufacturing company Zhongxing Telecom corporations (ZTE), headed by Lou Ping Fan, President Southeast Asia for the company. The meeting was also attended by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan.’

Some analysts I’ve spoken to in India believe China sees Pakistan as a useful tool for tying down India in Kashmir, a view that was given some weight earlier this year when the Chinese Embassy in Delhi started issuing separate visas to Indian passport holders from Indian-administered Kashmir. This is an issue that is taken up by a couple of the contributors to our APAC2020 special feature that comes out this week. And it’s sure to be a key issue in the next few years.

This will be the last post until the New Year, but in the meantime do check out some of the interesting articles in APAC2020 when it’s up from tomorrow–we’ve got some great contributions from some analysts who are not just informative, but extremely generous with their time at this busy time of year.

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