Recently the relationship between United States and Pakistan is on the downslide, with pakistan fearing of possible cut in aid or US even declaring it a “state sponsor of terrorism” because of complaints by Afghan authorities. Today, Pakistan continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. annual support. The United States is “considering stripping Pakistan of its status as an ally because of a perceived failure to tackle terrorism,” according to reports.
Senior U.S. Congress members, led by Congressman Mike Rogers, Chairman of the Sub-committee on Strategic Forces, had warned that China is supplying super sensitive nuclear weapons systems to Pakistan which could pose a threat to the national security of the United States and other nations like India. In his speeches, Trump has drawn attention to China’s ‘devious track record’ in nuclear material matters and the fact that Beijing has actively assisted Islamabad in its nuclear program in violation of global and United Nations norms. Trump has been calling for firm action against China and, if this illicit nuclear relationship is confirmed by the U.S. Government, then by law, it will have to impose economic and other sanctions on Beijing.
As the relations between United states and pakistan are soaring Pakistan is increasingly looking to china to bail itself out of its economic woes. China has also stepped in to expand its sphere of influence. It currently is involved in a major mutually beneficial project to build a network of roads and other infrastructure from its territory to Pakistan’s Gwadar port in order to provide a shorter route to the Persian Gulf. Russia, too, has been making diplomatic overtures and recently participated in joint naval exercises off Pakistan. “If the US does not consider our legitimate concerns and just toes India’s line, then we will certainly move closer to China and Russia,” the official said, referring to Pakistan’s first “contingency plan.
China and Pakistan have agreed to strengthen anti-terrorism and security cooperation along a US $50 billion economic corridor that links the restive regions of the two countries through a network of rail and road projects. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connects Xinjiang province in northwest China with the deep-water Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea in southwestern Pakistan. It faces challenges from Islamic militants in both the regions.
China and Pakistan have agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation on science and technology under the Belt and Road Initiative. The agreement was made on Saturday during a meeting between Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and visiting Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang. Wan, also vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said the two sides have carried out a series of pragmatic cooperation such as joint laboratory construction and young scientists’ exchanges.
Furthermore, the two sides should push forward energy cooperation in the fields of thermal power, Hydropower, solar energy and clean energy, implement infrastructure cooperation projects such as highways, railways, urban rail facilities, deepen cooperation in industrial parks and strengthen personnel training, the Chinese vice premier said. China and Pakistan should further tap the potential in bilateral economic and trade cooperation, maintain the growing momentum in bilateral trade so as to promote trade balance, he said. The two sides should also boost cooperation in the fields such as education, science and technology, culture, health, youth and media in a bid to consolidate the social basis of the China-Pakistan friendship, Wang said.
Both countries are working towards deepening their Counter-terrorism cooperation. Pakistan supports china strategy on the issue of Muslim separatism in Xinjiang. It has killed and extradited many of Uighurs to China. In return, China has supplied an increasing amount of counter-terrorism equipment, such as explosive scanners, to Pakistan. Both also collaborate to check East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and call the group their “common enemy”.
The “Friendship-2016” joint anti-terrorism training of the Chinese and Pakistani armies was held at Pakistani national anti-terrorism training center on October 18, 2016. This was the sixth “Friendship” joint anti-terrorism training between the special operations forces of China and Pakistan. Focused on “anti-terrorism combat by special operations units in mountains and urban residential areas”, the training was aimed at exchanging anti-terrorism skills and tactics and sharing experience in the building, training and real combat of the special operations forces.
China is also concerned with security of its heavy investment in Pakistan from the Karakorum Highway in the north of the country to the seaport of Gwadar in the south. In a bid to address their fears, Pakistan last year created an army division, to focus specifically on protecting CPEC projects and Chinese workers. Reports have said that Pakistan deployed a 15,000-strong military force to protect Chinese nationals working on various projects linked to the CPEC. This includes 9,000 Pakistan Army soldiers and 6,000 para-military forces personnel. Officials expect the CPEC projects to significantly boost Pakistan’s economic growth above the current 5 percent a year. China has become increasing concerned about al-Qaeda linked terrorism originating in Pakistan and sought help to set up military bases on Pakistani soil to deal with the problem.
During the joint anti-terrorism training, two sides also performed actual-troop live-ammunition comprehensive exercises with a view to improving the soldiers’ tactical and real combat capability, enriching the pragmatic training cooperation between the two militaries, and deepening their traditional friendship.
Military cooperation between China and Pakistan started in the 1960s when China began supplying arms to Pakistan and established a number of arms factories in Pakistan. Military cooperation in both conventional and non-conventional security is strengthening. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Pakistan is China’s biggest arms buyer, counting for nearly 47% of Chinese arms exports.
Military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. 600 Al Khalid tanks produced in Pakistan form the backbone of the Pakistan Army’s Armoured Corps. They are variants of Chinese Type 90II tank.
Pakistan recently inducted 16 new JF-17 Thunder jets to its air force. The JF-17 Thunder is the backbone of PAF and already more than 70 fighters of the category are part of it.
The JF-17 combat aircraft is the most notable piece of military hardware that is jointly produced. JF-17 fighter jet project (JF standing for joint fighter), was launched in 1999, when CATIC signed a cooperation agreement with the Pakistan Air Force. Both countries contributed half of the cost, estimated at US$150m. The design for the plane was finalised in 2001, and the maiden flight was held in 2003. The planes are powered with Russian engines and be armed with Chinese missiles.
Pakistani Air Force is expected to induct 250 to 300 JF17 fighter planes which will form its backbone. Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase an unknown number of JF17 aircraft, according to IHS Jane’s, a defence/aerospace publication, making Pakistan a defence exporter. China has also provided Four Karakoram Eagle airborne early warning & control aircraft (AWACS) at a cost of $278 million.
Emerging Naval Collaboration
China is the largest investor in Pakistan’s Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. It is viewed warily by both America and India as a possible launchpad for the Chinese Navy, giving them the ability to launch submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean. China has recently pledged to invest nearly $43 billion US dollars.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production confirmed a contract with China for the purchase of eight conventional diesel electric submarines, which will cost between $4 billion to $5 billion (Rs. 25,600 crore to Rs. 33,200 crore), China’s biggest defence export deal.
China has sold four 2,5000 ton Zulfiquar class frigates at a cost of $500 to $750 million. Three of these were constructed in China, the fourth in Karachi.
China’s Nuclear assistance to Pakistan
In Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has inaugurated a nuclear power facility built with the assistance of China. The plant at Chashma, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, adds 340 megawatts to the national grid. Beijing has already constructed two other nuclear reactors, with a combined capacity of more than 600 megawatts.
The three power plants at Chashma are known as C-1, C-2 and C-3 respectively. They are are part of broader plans to overcome long-running crippling power shortages in Pakistan. “The next (nuclear) power projectwith an installed capacity of 340 megawatts, C-4, is also being built here (in Chashma with Chinese assistance). God willing, it will be operational and connected to the national grid in April, 2017,” Sharif told Wednesday’s ceremony.
In the past, China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, especially when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire plutonium and uranium enriching equipment from elsewhere such as the Chinese help in building the Khushab reactor, which plays a key role in Pakistan’s production of plutonium.
China has provided Nine HQ16 medium range surface to air missile systems with a maximum intercept range of 40 km at a cost of $600 million.
The U.S. Congressmen reportedly said that they are specifically alarmed over the supply of Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) systems, which would provide instant mobility to Pakistan’s medium range nuclear ballistic missiles like the Shaheen III. The Pakistan Army successfully conducted a training launch of the Ghauri medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) fired from the transporter erector launcher from Tilla Test Range in Jhelum District in 2015. Ever since it has been in the market for several TEL systems. Pakistan Army already uses Chinese origin 8×8 transporter erector launchers similar to the Russian MAZ-543/MAZ-7310.
US Congressmen have cautioned that availability of more such mobility vehicles would provide Pakistan’s nuclear command with far reaching powers to strike anywhere in South Asia, including in Afghanistan and India and on targets that affect U.S. national security interests in the region.
Close strategic partnership
China–Pakistan share a close strategic partnership since 1950s. The 1962 Sino-India War strengthened the relationship and, in 1963, Pakistan agreed to cede part of Kashmir to China. China and Pakistan formed a strategic partnership in 1972. China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir while Pakistan supports China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan.
The relations between Pakistan and China have been described by Pakistan’s ambassador to China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on. On January 26, 2015, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a conclusion of a two-day visit of Raheel Sharif to Beijing called Pakistan China’s ‘irreplaceable, all-weather friend’.
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