Islamabad, Jul 8: A proactive, solution-oriented and forward-looking approach with due consideration to changing domestic, regional, and international scenarios is required to analyze and tackle current challenges and issues in Pak-China relations, while strengthening policy communication, and safeguarding CPEC projects.
The ideas were generated during an in-house session at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), which was addressed by Khalid Rahman, IPS’ chairman, Dr. Saif-ur-Rehman Malik, senior research fellow at IPS, and joined by IPS’ research team and associates.
Khalid Rahman gave a comprehensive overview of the current status of Pak-China relations concerning the latest developments, i.e. the BRICS meeting and the visit of Yang Jiechi, member Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs China. The discussion was laid in the context of the ongoing presumptions, the change of Pak-China relation’s equation, CPEC, political scenarios affecting CPEC, security issues, and global outlook.
He stated that, as a preamble to analyze Pak-China relations in the current state of events, the presumption that Pak-China ties are strong, all-weathered and based on deep trust, must always be kept in mind. This is important because international policies are framed and played through such presumptions.
While discussing the Pak-China relationship, which is based on an equation of mutual support and assistance, he stated that Pakistan had supported and assisted China in a promising way on various occasions. But now, the equation has transformed, owing to China’s emergence as one of the main global powers. Though Pakistan is still equally significant to China, it’s leverage in global affairs has weakened for the time being.
He was of the view that the onset of development initiatives including projects, like the Belt and Road initiative, and getting more than 140 countries directly engaged with it has opened several new vistas for China. Though CPEC, the flagship project of the BRI Initiative, was started surrounding political chaos in Pakistan, its early years were a success. But the decision-making, scope, speed, and high-level interactions got affected with the change in focus and priorities of with the changes in government, it certainly created a bad taste.
Fast forward to mid-2022s political scenario in Pakistan, while the incumbent government has strongly expressed its intent to revive the spirit as well as speed and remove any bottlenecks about CPEC and related development projects, questions on the fate of the current government and its policies may continue looming over for some time. No doubt, the increasing polarization which forms the foundation of political chaos, affects international interactions and dealings and increases the dependency on institutions like IMF, which inherently means dependency on the US, he stated.
Another issue, significant in the context of the Pak-China relationship, is the security of Chinese nationals engaged in development projects, specifically CPEC. Incidents of targeting Chinese nationals in Pakistan are naturally a cause of concern for the Chinese government and raising questions about the efficacy of special security arrangements that Pakistan has made for the Chinese companies and workers engaged in various projects here.
Among other external factors in the international scenario, like Indian motives and moves, the Ukraine-Russian conflict is also relevant as it has led to the emergence of new global political and economic dynamics. This changing scenario offers both opportunities as well as new challenges and invites fresh thinking by every stakeholder.
With this context in mind, Khalid Rahman concluded that the non-participation of Pakistan in the BRICS meeting should not be regarded as a matter of big concern if seen through certain ground realities and the technicalities involved in decision-making in such fora. Along with continuously changing and disturbed domestic scenario in Pakistan and the depleted economic situation that Islamabad is currently facing, plus the difference in governance styles and development models of the two countries and Beijing’s balancing approach in the emerging global scenario are some of the factors that should be kept in view while moving forward.
Concerning Yang Jiechi’s visit, he stated two aspects of it for China i.e., the possibilities of having a Chinese security force in Pakistan for the protection of Chinese nationals, and to understand and assess the domestic political situation of Pakistan.
He further stated that mutual trust, which forms the foundation of any deepened and sustainable relationship, must be protected and made a key agenda in the Pak-China relationship. In this regard, communication and interaction at all levels must be given due consideration. Moreover, Pakistan should adopt a way of silent diplomacy with China to work things out.
Dr. Saif-ur-Rehman was of the view that the mishap for Pakistan at the BRICS summit and Yang Jiechi’s visit are indicators that Pakistan’s domestic scenarios have their manifestations in regional as well as global politics.
Regarding the first, i.e. non-invitation to Pakistan in the BRICS meeting despite China’s wish, he highlighted that it shows how China is acting in a bigger canvas and trying to balance things. It also indicates a need for Pakistan to see its diplomatic standing at the international level and neighborhood diplomatic preference for China vis-à-vis India.
Regarding the second indicator, he considered this visit unique and important in the sense that it has reinforced Pakistan to move forward with China despite all challenges it is faced with because of this relationship.
He affirmed that Pakistan is competent enough to provide security to Chinese officials through its two special and dedicated security divisions established to protect CPEC and Chinese people engaged in development projects.
He claimed that Pakistan would never accept such proposals that question the capacity of its security apparatus. He also advocated that Pakistan must ensure China that it would leave no stone unturned to protect Chinese nationals working in Pakistan.
At the domestic level, Pakistan needs to address its policy flaws to achieve three things i.e., good governance, law and order, and energy security, he noted. Moreover, Pakistan must take lessons from the outcomes of international changing scenarios like the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
Lastly, he argued that Pakistan must take measures to keep its relevance in international chessboard politics which can only be achieved by reshaping policies in domestic, regional, and global arenas and a proactive approach in foreign policy.