China-Pakistan Alliance Strengthened Post Bin Laden
May 16, 2011
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani began a visit to China on Tuesday with his country's old ally looking more attractive after the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden further strained Islamabad's ties with Washington.
The sentiment is mutual, with China now in the process of shoring up its relations with Islamabad, Afghanistan and several other Central Asia states in step with an expected diminished U.S. presence as it winds down military operations in Afghanistan.
For Pakistan, Beijing represents an uncritical friend ready to provide aid, investment and military assistance. To the leaders in Beijing, ties with Pakistan and other countries in its neighborhood offer a bigger diplomatic footprint, better access to resources and a larger stable of allies to challenge U.S. supremacy.
"Pakistan wants to give a show that it is an independent actor and has options, and China offers a model of a functioning non-democratic state," said Indiana University China scholar Elliot Sperling.Gilani arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday evening, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Although Gilani's four-day visit was planned well in advance, it comes at a critical time for his country's relations with the U.S., which have been thrown into crisis over the American raid that killed bin Laden in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2. Pakistan has called it a violation of its sovereignty and threatened to retaliate if there are any similar operations in the future.
While American politicians served up withering criticisms of Pakistan's failure to find bin Laden's hide-out — or the possibility that officials were protecting him — China offered welcome reassurance, praising Pakistan as resolute in the fight against terrorism.
Gilani made Pakistan's appreciation clear, singling out China in a testy May 9 speech to parliament as Islamabad's "all-weather friend." China-Pakistan ties were forged shortly after the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 and have thrived in part on both countries' distrust of their mutual neighbor India.
Gilani's visit is formally pitched as part of celebrations of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, and he is scheduled to meet with top Chinese leaders and oversee the signing of a series of agreements beginning Wednesday.
"Further consolidating and developing our friendship and cooperation is the common aspiration of the two peoples," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regularly scheduled news briefing Tuesday.Along with billions of dollars in investment — up to $30 billion over the next five years, according to agreements signed last year — China supports Pakistan's nuclear power industry and sells it military hardware including surface-to-air missiles, navy frigates and fighter jets.
China for its part receives strong diplomatic backing from Pakistan in the region and among Islamic nations who might otherwise be more critical of China's repressive policies toward its Muslim Uighur minority.
Among other benefits: Pakistani officials have suggested they might offer Chinese experts a chance to examine the wreckage of a sophisticated U.S. helicopter that crashed during the operation to take out bin Laden. Strong Pakistan ties also help anchor China's improving relations with other countries in the region.
A visit by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul this month put a fresh sheen on bilateral relations at a time when the reduction in U.S. troop strength is expected to open up space for other countries to expand their influence there.
Days earlier, Beijing had underscored its regional heft by hosting forces from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for joint anti-terrorism drills in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, part of its embrace of Central Asia through the Chinese and Russian-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Still, there are questions as to how much further China is willing to go in building up relations with Islamabad. China also needs to keep its crucial but delicate relationship with Washington in balance, and wouldn't want to be seen as exacerbating tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Sperling said he doesn't expect much of substance to result from the visit, although China is happy to accommodate Pakistan's desire to alter perceptions.
China is also deeply concerned about radical Islamic threats on its border and has little interest in backing Pakistan's support for the Taliban in Afghanistan to counter Indian influence. Greater turmoil in Afghanistan would be a "challenge instead of an opportunity for China," said Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
"China is willing to have cooperation with any Afghanistan government and provide help within its ability, but the role will be limited," he said.
May 15, 2011
Tensions between the US and Pakistan over the killing of Osama bin Laden and a speedier US withdrawal from Afghanistan are likely to reinforce China and Pakistan's already strong ties, analysts say.
When Chinese leaders welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to Beijing this week, they will likely praise Sino-Pakistani "friendship" over the past 60 years -- a stark contrast to recent Western criticism of Islamabad.
Analysts say Gilani's visit starting Tuesday will help Islamabad deflect mounting pressure from Washington and elsewhere, as Pakistan stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its long-time ally and neighbour.
"China is the only country that has taken a sympathetic stand for Pakistan after the bin Laden operation," Talat Masood, a political analyst and retired Pakistani general, told AFP.
"This visit is important in the sense that it could counter (US) pressure on Pakistan. It shows Pakistan wants to say we also have some cards to play."
China has shown unswerving support for Pakistan since US special forces killed bin Laden at a compound near the country's top military academy on May 2, sparking speculation that Islamabad may have known about his whereabouts.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu pointed out a few days after the Al-Qaeda chief's killing that Pakistan was nevertheless "at the forefront of the international counter-terrorism effort".
Beijing's goodwill has not gone unnoticed.
"At this crucial juncture of history, I cannot say anybody is standing with Pakistan except for China," Pakistan's popular opposition leader Nawaz Sharif told reporters.
Many in Pakistan, outraged by the unilateral US raid, are increasingly convinced that their nation's strategic alliance with the United States since 2001 has been less than positive and has only made the country less stable.
It could therefore be tempting for the nuclear-armed Islamic republic to move away from the United States and get closer to faithful ally Beijing, analysts say.
"If US and Indian pressure continues, Pakistan can say 'China is behind us. Don't think we are isolated, we have a potential superpower with us'," Masood said.
China is the main arms supplier to Pakistan, which sees Beijing as an important counter-balance to India -- which has recently tightened its ties with the United States.
Beijing has also agreed to build several nuclear reactors in Pakistan.
Kerry Dumbaugh, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, said Pakistan's pro-China stance on issues such as Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its own territory, is also a key factor in Beijing's support for Islamabad.
"Pakistan serves as an advocate or a conduit for China in the Islamic world," Dumbaugh said.
According to other experts, China is convinced that Pakistan will increase its influence in Afghanistan by 2015, taking advantage of the planned withdrawal of US troops.
China also needs Islamabad's cooperation in stemming potential terrorist threats in its mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan.
Ultimately, China wants calm to reign, particularly in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, through which it plans to transport oil from the Middle East in a pipeline linking Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea.
But experts warn that friendship between China and Pakistan has its limits.
"China is important for Pakistan and will remain so, but when it comes to hi-tech you have to go to the US and the West, also because of their clout in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," political analyst Hasan Askari said.
Andrew Small, an expert on China-Pakistan relations at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, agreed.
The Chinese "get what they want out of the relationship already -- having Pakistan to provide balance in the region to try to keep India tied down in South Asia rather than becoming a broader Asian or global power," Small said.
"They're not going to want to be in a position where they end up with Pakistan on their plate to deal with."
The Siasat Daily
May 21, 2011
China signalled its intent to deepen strategic ties with Pakistan and back the country’s counterterrorism efforts against international pressure, with the “all-weather” allies signing a number of defence agreements to mark the conclusion of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s four-day visit.
Pakistani officials confirmed on Friday that China agreed to speed up the delivery of 50 JF-17 fighter jets to the country, a deal analysts said underscored the importance of Chinese assistance to Islamabad at a time when relations with Washington have come under strains, with some U.S. legislators calling for a scaling back support.
A joint statement issued on Friday said China believed that Pakistan’s “efforts for promoting peace and stability in South Asia should be recognised and supported.”
It also reiterated Chinese support to Pakistan in the wake of criticism following the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden, repeating Beijing’s displeasure at the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting the raid in Abbottabad.
China believed “Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity should be respected,” the statement said, adding that China “recognised the tremendous efforts and the great sacrifice that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism.”
On Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao also voiced strong support for Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy in talks with Mr. Gilani, pushing back against recent international criticism.
In talks earlier this week, Chinese officials told Mr. Gilani they had taken up the country’s concerns over the May 2 raid in meetings with U.S. officials, calling on them to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Chinese officials said “there should be no harm to the Pakistani sovereignty and the US should understand and appreciate concerns of Pakistan,” Mr. Gilani told reporters.
While his visit has been seen as underscoring the deepening ties between the two countries, Chinese analysts downplayed its significance on the rest of the region, and particularly on the two countries’ relations with the U.S.
“The focus of this visit was the sixtieth anniversary of ties between the two countries, and to deepen economic and trade ties” and not defence or terrorism, Rong Ying, vice president of the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), told The Hindu.
He, however, added that “China has made clear that Pakistan’s policy on counterterrorism is based on national conditions and interests.”
“This,” he said, “has to be respected by relevant countries.”
- China brushes aside criticism against Pakistan on terror [DNA India]
- Pak, China display camaraderie amid strain in US-Pak ties [DNA India]
- Pak has sacrificed to control terror, is victim: China [Indian Express]
- Wen says China friends 'forever' with Pakistan [Yahoo Daily News]
- China defends Pak terror fight, Gilani praises 'best friend' [Indian Express]
- Pakistan PM declares China as 'true and a time-tested friend' following strains with US [The Times of India]