Sultan M Hali
Dr. Stephen P. Cohen â€” famous American political scientist, prominent expert on Pakistan, India, and South Asian security and a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution â€“ was asked by a journalist during an interview if there is any example in the world (in his knowledge) where the cordial relations between the states are not entirely based on the mutual interests. Dr. Cohen replied that in his recollection, China-Pakistan relations can be described as the statesâ€™ relations which are above their personal interests.Indeed, often described as â€œiron brothersâ€, China and Pakistan fit the bill of having ties which are beyond the realm of ethnocentrism or selfish, national interests. When China achieved its independence on October 1, 1949, it was battered and worn after a prolonged struggle to rid itself of foreign occupation and an internal struggle to defeat the â€œKuomintangâ€ (KMT). After suffering defeat at the hands of Chairman Mao Zedongâ€™s Chinese Communist Party, the KMT retreated to Taiwan (formerly â€œFormosaâ€) in 1949, where it established an authoritarian one-party state under Chiang Kai-shek. Ironically, the West ignored the 583 million Chinese and genuine â€œPeopleâ€™s Republic of Chinaâ€ (PRC) and instead recognised Taiwan comprising 1.2 million KMT and some aborigines as â€œRepublic of Chinaâ€ and even granted it a permanent seat at the UN Security Council â€“ complete with veto power. For 22 years, PRC was treated as a pariah state barred from any exposure to western technology, trade and commerce links. During this bleak period, Pakistan stood by China. For decades it was the only window for the recluse state, when Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was the sole international air carrier operating to and from China to the outside world. Pakistan fought the case for PRCâ€™s recognition at the United Nations and international forums and also facilitated the rapprochement between PRC and USA. Henry Kissingerâ€™s clandestine visit to Beijing in 1971 was organised by Pakistan. This trip became the precursor of US President Richard Nixonâ€™s historic visit to China, which finally thawed Sino-US relations.China never forgot the gestures and, continuing to acknowledge Pakistanâ€™s munificent support in those bleak years, has always stood by Pakistan in its every moment of trial and tribulation. Whether it was wars with India, natural calamities or manmade disasters, China has always been the first to reach its distressed brother Pakistan. During prolonged periods of sanctions imposed on Pakistan by the Occident, China continued to support Pakistanâ€™s genuine defence requirements. Similarly, Pakistan has also endeavoured to provide all out support whenever PRC or its people faced any catastrophe.On May 2, 2011, US Navy SEALâ€™s clandestinely stormed a residential compound in Abbottabad and eliminated the mastermind and creator of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. The whole world was chastising Pakistan, claiming that Pakistan had been harbouring the worldâ€™s most wanted terrorist for over a decade. The whole nation was morose and depressed owing to the serious allegations being hurled against Pakistan. It was only PRC that not only stood by Pakistan in its moment of agony but challenged the world to stop harassing Pakistan and instead acknowledge Pakistanâ€™s sacrifices and efforts in combating terrorism. Chinaâ€™s unstinted support for Pakistan brought cheer to the people of Pakistan.Whenever India has tried to have the United Nations or other international organisations declare Pakistan or any of its outfits blacklisted on the charge of terrorism, China has vetoed it. If this is not support and friendship beyond personal interests then what else is? Over the years, astute planning and judicious use of its resources have propelled PRC to become the worldâ€™s second most powerful economy while on the other hand, Pakistan has sunk into a deep abyss of economic grief, compounded by acute power shortages and incessant terror attacks. Political wrangling and poor law and order situation have exacerbated the environment. International sports and trade teams have stopped visiting Pakistan, foreign investors have deserted the terror stricken country and to make matters worse and further isolate it, Pakistan is being accused of sponsoring terrorism by its arch rival India.In this desolate milieu, China has chalked out development projects to enable Pakistan to climb out of the quagmire of economic dependency. President Xi Jinping has envisioned a mega project â€œOne Belt, One Roadâ€ (OBOR), which is a revival of the ancient Silk Route and also has a maritime component. One of the constituents of the OBOR is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which commences from the deep seaport of Gawadar (also constructed by China) and meandering through various parts of Pakistan, including the under developed provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, concludes at Kashgar in China. The OBOR fans out from Kashgar into Central Asia and reaches Europe. The OBOR and CPEC are not mere highways but comprise special economic zones envisaging industrial, commercial, trade, health, educational, energy, and information centers. Train, oil, gas, data, marine and air links complement the OBOR.
Cognizant of the outcome of the mega project in bringing prosperity to Pakistan, India is bent upon sabotaging the CPEC along with the deep sea port of Gawadar. Besides fomenting strife and insurgency in Pakistanâ€™s province of Balochistan and wreaking havoc through terror attacks, India and some other countries backing it for their vested interests are bribing or influencing some Pakistani politicians to oppose CPEC and the ingress of Chinese investment in Pakistan.
Unwittingly, these politicians are biting the very hand that is trying to feed Pakistan and help it overcome the morass and building infrastructure. Chinese philosophy is: â€œgive a poor man a fish, he will not starve for a day; teach him how to fish and he will not starve for life.â€ Operating on the same principle, China has established factories, power plants assembly lines in Pakistan with soft loans and also provided transfer of technology to enable us to stand on our own feet. The advent of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was established by China to help finance emergent countries institute development projects by setting up the infrastructure themselves.
Besides finding imaginary faults with CPEC, criticising the priorities, these detractors are also creating despondency by comparing the advent of CPEC to the British East India Company, which had come to the Indian Subcontinent during the Seventeenth Century in the reign of the Moghul Emperor Jahangir and became the precursor of three centuries of British Rule in India. This was stated by none other than Senator Tahir Mashhadi, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development.
It is highly derogatory to draw parallels with the East India Company and must have hurt the sentiments of Pakistanâ€™s sole benefactor. There is no doubt that OBOR and CPEC will benefit China but it had other options too besides Pakistan, yet it chose us because of our special relationship. To find imaginary faults with it and presuppose the honourable intentions of Pakistanâ€™s Iron Brother, all weather friend and strategic partner, is tantamount to making holes in the platter we eat in. If China were to discontinue CPEC (God Forbid), Pakistan would be left in a lurch, fending for itself against the very sharks that want to disintegrate us and devour us. Pragmatism demands that Pakistanâ€™s interests must be safeguarded but the true Sino-Pak bonds must not be sacrificed at the altar of vested interests.