The Chinese vision of Sino-Pak strategic partnership : III
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Issue Vol 25.3 Jul-Sep 2010 | Date : 30 May , 2011

Chinese Projects in PoK :On 14 October 2009, in a report titled “India objects to proposed Chinese projects in PoK”, it was stated that “the Chinese President Hu Jintao had also said that China would be involved in the Neelam-Jhelum hydro-electric project in the POK. The 4,500 megawatt project is likely to be installed by the builders of the Three Gorges Dam which can have dangerous consequences for the ecology of India.

These promises were made when Hu met Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The Chinese defence industry has also been invited to set up joint ventures in Pakistan to build warships and fighter planes.

The Chinese vision of Sino-Pak strategic partnership : I

The Chinese vision of Sino-Pak strategic partnership : II

In another report10 that day titled—“POK leaders justify India’s objection to Chinese projects”, the harsh facts were as follows: “Taking objection to Chinese projects in Gilgit Baltistan, the chief of the Gilgit Baltistan National Alliance Wajahat Hassan Khan told ANI over phone: “China has already occupied a part of Gilgit Baltistan, a little part of Hunza is under its control and Aksai Chin is also occupied.”

“¦ the chief of the Gilgit Baltistan National Alliance Wajahat Hassan Khan told ANI over phone: “China has already occupied a part of Gilgit Baltistan, a little part of Hunza is under its control and Aksai Chin is also occupied.”

Since Gilgit Baltistan is a disputed area, China has no business to build projects here, Khan added. India is objecting to various Chinese-funded projects in PoK namely Neelum Jhelum project, Diamer Bhasha Dam, Extension of Karakoram Highway, Sost Dry Port and Bunji Dam to name a few.

In a Chinese website11, the Chinese views regarding the Indian objection were expressed thus: “The Indian jealousy coupled with suspicion against China has lately become bigger. Firstly, India adopts precaution against the Chinese enterprises by all possible means. And then cooks up the story of an “intrusion” along the border. Whenever China gets in touch with other neighbouring countries, it invariably triggers a series of anxiety from India.

With regard to Bhasha dam the website maintains: “This is an investment by Chinese companies with a value of US$12.6 billion, by which the construction of a dam over the River Indus has been planned in the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. This dam named Diamer Bhasha Dam would have the capacity to solve the power deficiency in the region.”

The Chinese media categorically gives certain details of their involvement in projects inside Pakistan, with names of Chinese companies in constructing dams, bridges, highways and also in post-quake reconstructions, etc. This report dated 16 October 2009 says that during the Pakistani President Zardari’s visit to China in August 2009, Pakistan had signed one MoU with the Three Gorges Project group at Hangzhou to construct the Bunji Dam.

Pakistan: Reflections of China’s Official Mindset

Wu Yongnian, a researcher at the Chinese think-tank named Shanghai Institute of International Studies, has brought out the official Chinese views in his recently published book regarding problems in international relations and diplomacy in South Asia—especially involving India and Pakistan. Published in 2009, the book has been titled as “Daxiang, Niuche, Xinpian de Gongming he Shenwu” (The Resonance and Celestial Dance of the Elephant, Bullock-cart and Computer-chip).

Wu justifies the title by saying that India is a combination of tradition (symbolized by elephant), backwardness (symbolized by bullock-cart), and modernity (symbolized by computer-chip). While highlighting the extraordinary aspects in Sino-Pak relations in recent times, Wu cites some main areas of Sino-Pak bonhomie12:

China occupies only 0.08 percent of Chinas volume of import, while Chinas export to Pakistan occupies only 0.26 percent of the latters total volume of import. In 2004, Chinas trade surplus to Pakistan exceeded US$ 1800 million.

  • Strengthening multilevel cooperation in the area of security—both conventional and non-conventional. Sino-Pak military exercise was held in 2003. The two countries undertook a commitment not to join any league or group with an intent to harm the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of each other. Both sides would expand bilateral and multilateral cooperation in combating terrorism, secessionism, extremism, organized crimes, illegal immigration, smuggling of narcotics and arms. A joint research and development in manufacturing combat aircrafts was undertaken.

[Note: Nicknamed FC-1, i.e., Fighter China No.1, Xiaolong supersonic combat aircraft was researched and developed by Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation. Its engine was designed after the Russian MiG-29. A Sino-Pak contract on joint development of this fighter plane was signed on 28 June 1999, i.e. after the Kargil War. A test flight was conducted on 25 August 2003. Renamed as JF-17, i.e., Joint Fighter-17, and nicknamed ‘Thunder’, the Pakistan Air Force officially inducted its first JF-17 squadron on 18 February 2010. Pakistan is expected to buy weapons worth at least US$ 10 billion in the next 5 years, at least 4 billion from China alone. The weapons include the Sino-Pak produced JF-17 fighter planes, the F-22 Chinese frigates and Chinese components for the Pak military new battle tank named ‘Al-Khalid’.]

  • In economic and trade relations, China and Pakistan had been having the highest trade volume in the region during the past few decades. Only in the last few years the India-China trade volume has overtaken that between China and Pakistan. Presently the Sino-Pak trade has exceeded US$ 3 billion. China has agreed for Pakistani agro-products like mango and orange to enter the Chinese market. In order to support Pakistan’s economic recovery and development, Chinese enterprises are constructing hydropower stations, complete plants, factories with new technology, transport equipments, ports and highways. At the same time, China is enhancing further cooperation in the areas of financial administration, energy resources, nuclear energy, utilization of natural resources, space technology, high-tech, infocom and investments.

Wu Yongnian also cites some contradictions and problems in Sino-Pak relations13. The following five aspects have the potential of damaging bilateral ties if not properly addressed to:

The opening up of the Sino-Pak “trade and energy resource” corridor assumes an immeasurably favourable significance in developing the economy of both countries. Pakistans deepwater harbour at Gwadar overlooks the Indian Ocean in the south, and faces the Arabian Sea and Red Sea in the west

  • Due to the backwardness of the Pakistani economy, and science and technology, there are very less complementarities between China and Pakistan in the economic domain. In the long term, the economic and trade imbalance do not match with the good political relations between the two countries. Pak export to China occupies only 0.08 percent of China’s volume of import, while China’s export to Pakistan occupies only 0.26 percent of the latter’s total volume of import. In 2004, China’s trade surplus to Pakistan exceeded US$ 1800 million. The economic cooperation is mainly restricted to China’s technological export and economic aid, and also contractual projects of Chinese companies in Pakistan.
  • The unique geopolitical features of Pakistan as well as the stable Sino-Pak and “China-India-Pakistan” trilateral relations have been a challenge against the unilateral Asia-Pacific strategy of the US. The US is constantly watching the Sino-Pak relations. It feels worried at the “all weather” friendly ties between China and Pakistan, and tries to search for a breaching gap in their relations. The present US aid policy to Pakistan in economic and military terms can well undermine the Sino-Pak relations. This can be used in reaching a certain strategic objective in the US-Pak relations. Although it is said that Sino-Pak ties are unbreakable, yet in order to ensure a strategic balance in the South Asian and the Asia Pacific regions, China not only needs to cherish the present ties with Pakistan, but also needs to heed nurturing of the Sino-Pak ties in future. It also needs to promote a favourable path of development for Indo-Pak relations. A peaceful and friendly atmosphere around China becomes congenial for the country’s economic development. If a triangular strategic partnership evolves between India, Pakistan and the US, then that would have adverse effect on China’s peripheral security. On the other hand, a trilateral tie between China, India and the US may create in Pakistan a sense of suspicion and misunderstanding. China and Pakistan need to arrive at a common understanding through in-depth discussions.
  • The socio-political order is still not stable in Pakistan. The revival of religious extremist forces and some terrorist groups launching attack against the Chinese project technicians have affected the smooth operation of the Chinese construction projects in Pakistan. Chinese engineers were forced to abandon certain projects and leave for home. Besides, some Pakistani Muslims out of their religious fervour have sympathized with the “East Turkistan” separatists within the Chinese territory. This can easily cause misunderstanding in China. This would be a disservice to the people-to-people exchanges and links between China and Pakistan.
  • China and Pakistan despite being neighbours, are faced with limitations caused by the topography, problem in air link, the vast distance in maritime link and the inconvenience in communication over land. The people-to-people contacts also get restricted. Two nations with different ethnicity when faced with lack of exchanges and links will have no benefit in terms of amity and understanding. According to statistics, there are 50,000 Pakistanis, mostly businessmen, tourists, service sector employees, students and permanent residents, travel annually to China. Whereas there are only 10,000 Chinese who annually visit Pakistan, out of which only around 200 travel to Pakistan on sightseeing tour. This situation is far insufficient for further strengthening Sino-Pak relations.
  • The opening up of the Sino-Pak “trade and energy resource” corridor assumes an immeasurably favourable significance in developing the economy of both countries. Pakistan’s deepwater harbour at Gwadar overlooks the Indian Ocean in the south, and faces the Arabian Sea and Red Sea in the west. It is close to Iran in the north, located 400 km away from the Strait of Hormuz. Situated 500 km from Pakistan’s biggest economically developed port city of Karachi, the geographical location of Gwadar is extremely advantageous. President Musharraf’s proposal of setting up this corridor was envisaged on the basis of a long-term plan for Sino-Pak scientific research projects. Oil pipelines laid from Gwadar port would enter Xinjiang in China through the northern region of Quetta. It is also close to the Central Asian pipeline. Besides, if a railway line is laid between Quetta and Gwadar, then this would not only be a convenient maritime outlet for China, it would also be a vital overland communication line between China and Pakistan. Its importance is self-evident. However, due to the geographic and human environmental peculiarities of this region, and also due to the complicated topography and extremely unpredictable weather conditions, scientists and technicians in both China and Pakistan need to explore in detail the feasibility of such a project.

All these observations and viewpoints made by Chinese military strategists, intelligence personnel in the garb of academics, researchers or experts at different think-tanks in China—have contributed significantly to decode the mindset of the Chinese state in terms of its regional strategy and geopolitical game plan in South Asia. This has, no doubt, great implications for India and its regional aspirations. It is up to the Indian government to take proper and timely cognizance of all such developments taking place between China and Pakistan, and chalk out its own developmental as well as defence strategies before long.


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  14. http://
  15. BoardID=62&ID=114111
  16. Wu Yongnian, Daxiang, Niuche, Xinpian de Gongming he Shenwu (The Resonance and Celestial Dance of the Elephant, Bullock-cart and Computer-chip), Yinchuan: Ningxia People’s Press, 2009.


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  11. BoardID=62&ID=114111
  12. Wu, pp. 220–222.
  13. Wu, pp. 222–223.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Prof. Priyadarshi Mukherji

Prof. Priyadarsi Mukherji, Chairman, Centre for Chinese & South-East Asian Studies, JNU

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