Sino-Pakistan relationship: A challenge for the new Pakistani government
Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China's footprint grow more than Pakistan.
China's interest in South Asia has grown dramatically in recent years, encompassing geostrategic and security objectives and economic and development projects. Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China's footprint grow more than Pakistan.
After Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was dismissed from office by a historic no-confidence motion amid a significant political crisis in the South Asian country, China stressed that relations with Pakistan are unlikely to be harmed. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, China has been keeping a careful eye on the political situation in Pakistan. "As Pakistan's close neighbor and staunch ally, China hopes that all groups in Pakistan remain together and work together to ensure the country's general stability and development. Therefore, China would stick to its favorable stance toward Pakistan."
At the same time, security concerns in Pakistan will put the partnership's strength to the test in the coming years. However, if the country's internal security deteriorates or Chinese concerns about its political direction deepen, it will be a huge missed opportunity. Recently, three Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan. The director of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-run entity that conducts language and cultural programs worldwide, and two other faculty members in Pakistan were among the deceased, posing a challenge for Pakistan's new government as it attempts to improve relations with China. On the other hand, the Pakistani government promptly stated that those responsible would be found and punished.
One of Pakistan's most important military and economic assistance sources is China. This support from a major state is significant for Islamabad, which does not have many powerful allies. Moreover, Pakistan also hopes that Chinese initiatives will assist it in modernizing and transforming its economy while somehow keeping India in check.
Furthermore, as the geopolitical competition with the US increases and alliances form to confront China's growing assertiveness both in the region and beyond, Islamabad is likely to remain a crucial strategic partner for China. One of the major beneficiaries of China's rise as a global power should be Pakistan. However, the US has constantly tried to sabotage or disrupt China-Pakistan relations, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China's proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Khan's government had tight relations with the US, particularly following his February travel to Russia, which the US saw as a clear signal of taking sides in the Ukraine issue between the US and Russia. Khan has previously claimed that the US was behind efforts to depose him because he had visited Moscow in February. China has never intervened like the US in other countries' internal affairs: China and Pakistan can have an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership because China treats all parties that come to power equally and stays out of their internal affairs.
Relations with Beijing have only grown more significant as China's investments in Pakistan have increased, particularly since establishing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects Pakistani ports to Chinese transportation networks.
Notably, the new Pakistani prime minister stated that the everlasting Pak-China friendship is firmly ingrained in the hearts of the two countries' people and that Pakistan sees China as its best friend and values its strong friendship with the Chinese people. Pakistan and China have always stood by one other and worked together for mutual benefit, providing a positive example for international relations.
Most importantly, the new Pakistani government is willing to deepen bilateral cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, education, and poverty alleviation and accelerate the CPEC's construction with more vigor and efficiency to benefit both countries and peoples.
Significantly, cooperation between China and Pakistan in counterterrorism and the fight against the coronavirus is critical for Pakistan to overcome its current challenges. This means China is the country's most dependable, trustworthy, powerful, and irreplaceable partner. Moreover, China adheres to the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Therefore, no matter how the international scene and their respective domestic situations evolve, China-Pakistan relations have always been unshakeable and rock-solid, as history has repeatedly demonstrated.
According to Chinese and Pakistani analysts, China-Pakistan relations will not be influenced by Pakistan's internal political changes because safeguarding and developing bilateral relationships is a collective consensus of all parties and groups in Pakistan. Experts from both China and Pakistan are optimistic about the future of China-Pakistan relations, believing that the new government will respect the country's long-standing history of safeguarding the country's friendship with China and all China-Pakistan cooperation projects. China looks forward to working closely with the new Pakistani government to maintain historic friendships, improve strategic communication, progress the CPEC, and establish a closer China-Pakistan community with a common vision in the 21st century (CGTN, 2020). Pakistan's current political troubles have nothing to do with the country's strong connections with China. Thus collaboration between the two countries will be unaffected.