Chinese Arming of Pakistan
The first area of concern is Beijing’s help in arming Pakistan. According “China-Pakistan Relations,” a July 2010 article by Jamal Afridi and Jayshree Bajoria in the New York-headquartered Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs, China provided assistance to Pakistan in setting up facilities at the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, which would provide for the overhauling of Chinese Type-59 tanks and the upgrade of these tanks’ critical components such as fire control systems, thermal sight and electronic systems. During the 1980s, the HRF started licensed production of the state-of-the-art Chinese Type-69 battle tanks.
China has greatly enhanced Pakistans conventional war-fighting ability by coproducing the Main Battle Tank-2000, upgrading Pakistani submarines and jointly producing the Joint Strike Fighter-17 aircraft.
As Afridi and Bajoria report: “Later, a protocol was signed between China and Pakistan to set up facilities for the licensed production of Chinese Type-69 II BMPs (tracked fighting vehicle). The hulls were, however, imported from China along with amour plates, while other parts were manufactured in Pakistan under the technical advice of Chinese experts. China’s Norinco has also helped Pakistan in the manufacture of Chinese T-69 and T-85 II battle tanks and M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers. Similarly, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was also established with Chinese assistance. The F-6 Rebuild Factory, established as a turnkey project by China, became operational in November 1980. The F-6 had, after the American F-86 Sabres, come to be the mainstay of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). China later also built overhauling facilities in Pakistan for the F-6 Shenyang fighter and the Tumansky RD-9B-8II turbojet engines with over 7,000 other spare parts.”
Riedel and Singh concur, adding that Beijing is also the principal arms supplier to Islamabad. Between 1978 and 2008, China sold roughly $7 billion worth of equipment to Pakistan. Weaponry included short-and-medium range ballistic missiles, small arms and conventional war-fighting weapons systems. In addition, China has greatly enhanced Pakistan’s conventional war-fighting ability by coproducing the Main Battle Tank-2000, upgrading Pakistani submarines and jointly producing the Joint Strike Fighter-17 aircraft. In November 2009, Beijing agreed to sell J-10 advanced fighter jets to Islamabad in a deal worth $1.4 billion.
What also bothered Riedel and Singh is the fact that Pakistan, who has maintained ties with European defence companies, could be a conduit providing sophisticated European defence technologies to China. “As recently as 2008, French company MBDA has been in negotiations with Pakistan to sell Islamabad MICA (Missile d’Interception, de Combat et d’Autodéfense) air-to-air missiles (AAM), while another French conglomerate, Thales, intends to sell the RC400 radar to Islamabad,” Riedel and Singh write. “The missiles and radars would equip the joint Sino-Pakistan JF-17/FC1 fighter. Defense industry analysts suspect that if the sale goes through, Chinese officials will have almost certain access to weapons technology that was previously included under the arms embargo. And, in the event of a confrontation with Taiwan, Beijing can use this technology to neutralize Taiwan’s Air Force, which utilizes fighter jets that are equipped with the same MICA air-to-air missiles.”
“¦Pakistan, who has maintained ties with European defence companies, could be a conduit providing sophisticated European defence technologies to China.
It has also been noted in Washington that much of the military equipment China provides to Pakistan does not directly serve counterterrorism goals but more broadly supports the needs of Pakistan. Apart from the JF-17 agreement, other more recent examples of China’s role in providing military equipment to Pakistan include assistance in the development of the Pakistan navy’s Sword-class (F-22) frigates and a contract for at least 36 CAC J-10 multirole fighter aircraft, with the first delivery expected in 2012 or 2013.
Why the worry?
It is hard to miss the irony in the fact that the United States—which had armed Pakistan during the Cold War days, when Islamabad engaged in border wars with India using those weapons—is now concerned about the arming of Pakistan. There is no indication that such worries centre on a suspicion that possession of the weapons will encourage Pakistan to start a war with India. So, why the concern? Is it because the armaments are supplied by China, a potential enemy of the United States? If that is the case, does the worry centre on the potential difficulties for the United States if it should choose to intervene militarily in Pakistan at some future date? U.S. policymakers have expressed their concern about the fate of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event that the jihadis get control of Islamabad. Under such circumstances, a weakly armed Pakistan is Washington’s preference.
“¦the relationship between Pakistan and Russia is marred by the Cold War legacy and will take a long time to get normalized.
Some in Washington have other worries, as well. The New York–based Hudson Institute’s Anna Mahjar-Barducci penned an article “New War Ahead: China-Pakistan vs. U.S.A.,” on March 2, 2011, in which she cites the deployment of “thousands of soldiers in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan, a mountainous area in northern Pakistan, and a region historically contested by Pakistan, India and its inhabitants.”
This deployment, Mahjar-Barducci argues, is targeted against India and constitutes a show of intent by China to get directly involved in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. She quotes Mumtaz Khan, director for the International Centre of Peace and Democracy in Toronto, saying, “Many Western analysts who view China’s stance merely as a bargaining chip against India will unfortunately soon realize that China is redefining its priorities and interests in South Asia and beyond. The current involvement of China in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir consists of more than just providing military and diplomatic support to Pakistan. Soon, Pakistan will swap its role to take the backseat as China exerts itself as a major player in the Kashmir issue”—and maybe also in Afghanistan.
Washington is not so much concerned about the kinds of problems that would follow a jihadi takeover for the Pakistani polity or the dangers it would pose for China, India, Russia or the region as a whole. The principal concern is that the jihadis will get control of Pakistans nuclear weapons and, thus, pose a direct threat to the United States.
Mahjar-Barducci also raises the spectre of a war between the United States and the combined forces of China and Pakistan. She says, “The possible scenarios coming out of the present situation are also dangerous. A deterioration of the relations between the U.S. and Pakistan over the war in Afghanistan could lead to a direct confrontation—in which event, the involvement of the giant China, as Pakistan’s ally, might be inevitable. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports that already a delegation of the Chinese Army visited the Pakistan-Afghan border last October .
“The same MEMRI’s analysis also predicts that in a possible war between Pakistan/China on the one hand and the U.S. on the other, Russia would be on the side of the West. Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that Russia does not want the international troops to leave Afghanistan. Moscow, concerned about development in this region, has begun strengthening the Afghan police forces by supplying weapons and ammunition.
“In the meantime, the relationship between Pakistan and Russia is marred by the Cold War legacy and will take a long time to get normalized. MEMRI reports that the Urdu-language Pakistani daily Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt has warned that ‘another enemy of Pakistan’—Russia—has been added to the list of the countries influencing Afghanistan, and that the presence of Russian troops in Afghanistan will reinforce anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan.”
The Nuclear Conundrum
Many analysts in Washington have expressed deep concern over the rise of violent jihadis inside Pakistan, some of whom have established their bases within Pakistan’s once pro-West elite military. Washington is not so much concerned about the kinds of problems that would follow a jihadi takeover for the Pakistani polity or the dangers it would pose for China, India, Russia or the region as a whole. The principal concern is that the jihadis will get control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and, thus, pose a direct threat to the United States. In other words, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is by itself the primary concern of some in Washington.
Now that times have changed and Pakistan is no longer Washingtons most-desired comrade-in-arms, the United States can no longer accept Pakistans nuclear arsenal.
Like the rise of the jihadis, Pakistan’s nuclearisation was also accomplished with a wink and a nod from Washington. During the 1970s and the 1980s, Washington used Pakistan’s illicit nuclearisation as a stick to stop arms and hardware sales to Islamabad from time to time. But for the most part, and particularly during the Ronald Reagan presidency, the wink-and-nod approach was adopted to keep Pakistan, its frontline warrior against the Soviet Union, happy and yet, on a leash. As a result, Pakistan went nuclear.
Now that times have changed and Pakistan is no longer Washington’s most-desired comrade-in-arms, the United States can no longer accept Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. As early as in 2006, in an article “Future Terrorism: Mutant Jihads” in the fall issue of the Washington-based Journal of International Security Affairs, Walid Phares says, “Many of the components of the worldwide war with jihadism are concentrated in Pakistan. So far, Pakistan’s radical Islamists have been able to block their government from taking back control of the country’s western tribal areas and uprooting the fundamentalist organizations in its east. But potentially even more dangerous is the possibility that jihadists could take control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal . . . .”
From time to time, U.S. officials have hinted publicly that concrete plans are in place in the event of a Pakistani nuclear emergency. For instance, during Senate hearings for her confirmation as secretary of state in 2005, the then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was asked by Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.) about what would happen to Pakistan’s nukes in the event of an Islamic coup in Islamabad. “We have noted this problem, and we are prepared to try to deal with it,” Rice had said. In the September/October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, in their lengthy article “The Ally from Hell,” Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder describe the U.S. plans and preparations in great detail.
A Federation of American Scientists (FAS) report issued this spring states that “the greatest threat to Pakistans nuclear infrastructure comes from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia.”
A Federation of American Scientists (FAS) report issued this spring states that “the greatest threat to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure comes from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia.” The report, “Anatomizing Non-State Threats to Pakistan’s Nuclear Infrastructure,” states that “while there is appreciation of this danger, there are few substantive studies that identify and explore specific groups motivated and potentially capable of acquiring Pakistani nuclear weapons and/or fissile materials.” The report discusses why the Pakistani neo-Taliban is the most worrisome terrorist group capable of acquiring nuclear weapons provides new numbers for Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile and updates developments in Pakistan’s production of fissile materials.
The Pakistan military—the Pakistani institution most deeply tied to the U.S.—has repeatedly claimed that Washington’s trumpeting of such threats is an expression of its intent to denuclearise Pakistan. Yet the decibel level on this issue increased significantly after Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad last May. “The discovery and subsequent killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, raises several troubling questions,” the new FAS report states, adding that “with regard to the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, commentators note the US’ airborne raid on Bin Laden’s compound—undetected by radars in Pakistan, the world’s ûfth-largest military power—lends credence to the belief that state actors might be capable of successfully seizing and exûltrating [sic] Pakistan’s nuclear assets.”
Last April, the Sino-Pakistan relationship was explored in the sixth instalment of the “China and South Asia Dialogues,” sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Dan Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations joined Paul Haenle and Lora Saalman of Carnegie and a group of Chinese experts at the roundtable in Beijing. In their online report on the event, “Partners in Peril,” Haenle and Saalman note that one of the Chinese panellists stated that, given the disparity between U.S. treatment of India and Pakistan’s civil nuclear programs, China has felt compelled to move forward on civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. China is not worried about the security of Pakistani nuclear facilities since it is in the interest of the Pakistani military to ensure their safety, argued another Chinese expert. Markey said he had suggested that China might be overly confident in the ability of Pakistan’s military to protect these nuclear assets, particularly from terrorists.
In December, this topic was featured in a lengthy special report that was a joint project of the conservative National Journal and The Atlantic Monthly in Washington. Published in the 5 November National Journal under the title “Nuclear Negligence” and in the December Atlantic Monthly under the title “The Ally from Hell: What to Do About Pakistan,” authors Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder state: “Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea.”
Beyond the threat of Pakistans nuclear arsenal falling in the hands of the jihadis, Americans recognise the involvement of China in Pakistans nuclear weaponisation and delivery program.
The authors recall President Obama’s statement at an international nuclear security meeting in Washington last year: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term, and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Al Qaeda, Obama added, is “trying to secure a nuclear weapon—a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”
Goldberg and Ambinder also quote Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, saying that there are three threats: The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.”
While pulling no punches concerning the dysfunctional, “tormented” nature of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, Goldberg and Ambinder also describe the U.S. plans and preparations to deal with a Pakistani “nuclear emergency” in great detail.
Controversy surrounds these agreements as China, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, is restricted from building a nuclear facility in a country such as Pakistan that does not allow for full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Beyond the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling in the hands of the jihadis, Americans recognise the involvement of China in Pakistan’s nuclear weaponisation and delivery program. As Riedel and Singh state: “Most notably, the two cooperated in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. After its own acquisition of nuclear technology, Beijing championed the rights of all nations to obtain this weapon of mass destruction as it felt the restriction of ownership was a Western imposition on the Third World. This sentiment guided Beijing to provide intelligence on nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, starting as early as in 1976 but gathering momentum throughout the 1980s.
“In 1992, China began to build Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear power plant and was suspected in 1994 of helping Pakistan to build an unsafeguarded, plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab. Further, in 1996, China was reportedly the principal supplier of technology to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, in direct contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2009, the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute signed agreements to build the Chashma nuclear power plants III and IV.
“Controversy surrounds these agreements as China, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, is restricted from building a nuclear facility in a country such as Pakistan that does not allow for full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.” Riedel and Singh pointed out as well that the transfer of M-11 short-range missiles by China to Pakistan may exceed the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines because the M-11 has the inherent capability to deliver a 500-kilogram warhead up to 300 kilometres—a fact disputed by the Chinese. Further, China helped Pakistan achieve an indigenous missile capability by providing blueprints on how to build a missile production plant.
Chinese help is also suspected by some to be responsible for Pakistans successful testing of its Hatf II missile. With a 300-km range, this missile is believed to be the result of French Eridan sounding rocket technology mixed with Chinese expertise.
What, however, has been noted by the Brookings scholars is that Pakistan’s missile development program was started in the 1980s with active assistance from Beijing at the same time that Washington was enabling Pakistan with its nuclear program with a wink and a nod. In fact, Sino-Pakistani missile collaboration goes back to 1986, when Pakistan started assembling the RBS-70 Mk 1 and Mk 2 air defence missiles systems. Collaboration in the area of longer-range missiles with the Chinese began once Pakistan became involved in financing their M-9 and M-11 missiles programs. General Mirza Aslam Beg is on record telling the press after a visit to Beijing that China’s Red Arrows were better than US TOW-11, saying that it ( Red Arrows) has had the “advantage of going for reverse technology and retaining it, improving on it, till you achieve what you want to achieve.”
Chinese help is also suspected by some to be responsible for Pakistan’s successful testing of its Hatf II missile. With a 300-km range, this missile is believed to be the result of French Eridan sounding rocket technology mixed with Chinese expertise. This area of Sino-Pakistani collaboration has become very controversial following reports by U.S. intelligence agencies that China has transferred about 30 or more of its intermediate range M-11 missiles to Pakistan—reports that, of course, both China and Pakistan have repeatedly denied.
The third concern among some American analysts is the Chinese intent, and Pakistan’s acquiescence, to extend the Karakoram Highway (KKH) all the way south to the Arabian Sea. Construction of the KKH—which connects western China and its largest autonomous region, Xinjiang, with Pakistan’s northern areas and all the way through to Islamabad—was a major undertaking. Since its completion in the 1970s, the highway has been used for limited trade and travel. “In a strict strategic sense, KKH is considered priceless. It gives Beijing unhindered access to Jammu and Kashmir in India, in addition to enabling it to block India’s movement along Aksai Chin, which China seized from India in 1962, and sever India’s land link to China’s turbulent autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. For Pakistan, the KKH constitutes added security for its turbulent Northern Areas, all the way up to Siachin where Indian and Pakistani troops have been in a stand-off since the mid-1980s,” Tarique Niazi of the Jamestown Foundation notes.
“¦although Sino-Pakistani ties have been deep and longstanding, there are now as many caveats in the relationship as there are uncertainties dogging the region.
Since then, China and Pakistan have agreed to widen the roadway to accommodate larger vehicles with heavier freight. This will enable China to ship energy supplies from the Middle East through Gwadar Port in Baluchistan, a stone’s throw from the strategic Strait of Hormuz, via the KKH land route to western China, which is its development hub. This alternative energy supply route will reduce Beijing’s dependence on the Malacca Straits. Pakistan’s former president, General Pervez Musharraf also wanted to set up a “crude transit route” through Gwadar Port for Beijing’s energy shipments from Iran and Africa and initiated the build-up of the port and the construction of oil refineries, natural gas terminals, oil and gas equipment and transit facilities in Baluchistan. China has agreed to help Pakistan with its plans for the development of its oil and gas industry.
But the Chinese experience working on the projects in Gwadar and its environs has not been without difficulty. While the Chinese have invested financial and human resources in the port over several years, Pakistan’s failure to maintain peace and stability in Baluchistan has been a major problem. Working under a constant threat of terrorism, several Chinese workers have been kidnapped and killed, and work has stalled frequently. “This has meant lack of supporting infrastructure and ancillary industries around the port,” reports Jabin T. Jacob, assistant director at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, in an August study, “The Future of China-Pakistan Relations after Osama bin Laden,” for the Australian think-tank Future Directions International, of which he is an associate(http://www.futuredirections.org.au/files/FDI%20Associate%20Paper%20-%2008%20August%202011.pdf). “The lack is such that the Port of Singapore Authority, which had taken over the running of the port, is said to be keen to cut its losses and hand it back to Pakistan before the end of the term of its contract. Further, Gwadar also faces competition from the much older and better developed port of Karachi in neighboring Sind province that has also received Chinese investments and could possibly serve Beijing’s purposes just as well.” As Jacob notes, the link-up of the KKH with Gwadar Port is now on hold.
At the same time, Washington has taken note of the Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of northern Pakistan. Washington has not issued an official statement, but it is likely that those who are concerned about Sino-Pakistani relations do not consider this a positive development. News reports indicate that Chinese miners and their affiliates are in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially in the Hunza-Nagar district, which is rich in uranium and other precious minerals. Some areas in upper Hunza, for instance, like the Chapursan Valley have become no-go areas, where the Chinese carry on their work on tunnel building and mineral explorations.
Reports also claim that Chinese miners have acquired a lease in the Astore district to extract high-quality copper. One company exploring for uranium and gold in Gilgit-Baltistan and coordinating with Chinese investors is Shahzad International, which is one of the largest lease-owning foreign contractors in the region.
Though not much is discussed publicly yet, some analysts do recognise that, although Sino-Pakistani ties have been deep and longstanding, there are now as many caveats in the relationship as there are uncertainties dogging the region.
In his talks with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, Meng stressed the “three forces of evil”””terrorism; extremism and separatism; and drug trafficking, illegal immigration and transnational crime””and said that these problems are a real threat requiring Pakistans “mutual support and cooperation.”
For instance, if Beijing’s relations with Pakistan begin to extend a shadow over Sino-Indian relations, China might very well weigh the annual Sino-Indian trade of about US$60 billion against the approximately US$7 billion trade with Pakistan to Islamabad’s detriment. As Gwadar shows, Chinese investments in Pakistan have not always worked out well. And in addition, China’s growing economic involvement in Pakistan has prompted increased targeting of Chinese civilians by Pakistan’s militants. Inside Pakistan, Chinese citizens have been subject to terrorism and violence. Beijing may conclude that the cost of doing business and trying to maintain influence in Pakistan is too high.
More importantly, Beijing has noted that it considers addressing the instability in Pakistan to be imperative and links this with the Chinese domestic political goal of preventing instability and extremism from penetrating the already volatile Xinjiang province in western China, which borders Pakistan. China has taken stern notice of the presence of violent separatist members of the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) within Pakistan. ETIM actively foments unrest and some violence in Xinjiang, threatening Beijing’s declared core interest of maintaining its own territorial integrity.
In September, following the 30 July 2011 Kashgar attacks—when two Uighur men identified by Beijing as members of the ETIM carried out a series of knife and bomb attacks in Kashgar, Xinjiang—and the 18 July 2011 attack in Hotan, Xinjiang—a series of coordinated bomb and knife attacks reportedly carried out by 18 young Uighur men wearing full-face Islamic veils—state councillor and minister of public security, Meng Jianzhu, made an official visit to Pakistan. In his talks with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, Meng stressed the “three forces of evil”—terrorism; extremism and separatism; and drug trafficking, illegal immigration and transnational crime—and said that these problems are a real threat requiring Pakistan’s “mutual support and cooperation.” Observers have since speculated that tension has emerged between China and Pakistan.