Geopolitics

Xi visit to Pakistan: Strategic implications for India
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 20 Apr , 2015

The much-anticipated visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan is finally taking place on April 20 after having been postponed in September last year due to the internal political turmoil in Islamabad triggered at the time by Imran Khan. The two- day visit has aroused high expectations and has been preceded by a lyrical article in the Pakistan media authored by the Chinese president wherein he notes: “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother.”

The current Xi visit to Pakistan is indicative of the manner in which China seeks to leverage the geography of Pakistan to its benefit.

China’s relationship with Pakistan has a distinctive ‘all-weather’ quality to it and the strategic underpinning to this bilateral was laid in the late 1950s when the Sino-Indian relationship was deteriorating. Pakistan, given its geographical location and innate hostility to India, was perceived by Beijing to be a valuable long-term investment. It is instructive to note that the latent rivalry between Chairman Mao Zedong and prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was discernible in the Bandung Conference held in Indonesia on April 18, 1955 – and President Xi will be traveling to Indonesia for the 60th anniversary of Bandung to be held on April 22.

This uneasy and wary Sino-Indian dynamic that flared up in the October 1962 war is now located in the larger southern Asian geo-economic context of the early 21st century and China’s aspirations. The current Xi visit to Pakistan is indicative of the manner in which this bilateral relationship has deepened and the manner in which China seeks to leverage the geography of Pakistan to its benefit. The Xi article dwells on the manner in which his host country  is remembered in China and specifically alludes to Pakistan having opened an air corridor for China to reach out to the world  in the early years after the 1949 revolution; and more specifically – having “supported China in restoring its lawful seat in the United Nations”.

This UN reference will definitely arouse intense comment in India, given the popular view that it was Nehru who advocated the case of Beijing over Taipei as the legitimate representative of China in the UN Security Council.

Be that as it may, the Xi visit has been heralded by some very ambitious signals about the scale and scope of the assistance that Beijing is planning to unveil. Development and infrastructure assistance upto a tune of US$46 billion is being hinted at, and this will comprise power generation and transport connectivity in the main. The core is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that envisages a link from the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea all the way to Xinjiang in northwest China. This multi-billion dollar project is expected to be completed in 2030 and, when completed, it will have the potential to radically alter the trade, economic and energy map of southern Asia. It must be added that upto 80 percent of the $46 bn fiscal investment will flow back to Chinese entities engaged in the power and infrastructure projects.

The core is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that envisages a link from the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea all the way to Xinjiang in northwest China.

From the Indian perspective, the fact that this proposed route will transit PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) will be a matter of grave concern, given the political overtones such a Chinese investment will generate. This issue will in all likelihood figure prominently in the Narendra Modi visit to Beijing later in May.

The central issue at hand is whether China’s ambitious economic and connectivity imitative can trump or finesse the political and security issues that have progressively contributed to a very complex and tangled triangular relationship that involves China-Pakistan and India.

An unresolved territorial dispute still shadows the China-India relationship and the India-Pakistan contestation over Kashmir is alive in a very visible manner.  The fact that Pakistan has unilaterally ceded parts of the composite state of Jammu and Kashmir to China in 1963 has added to the intractability of the issue. Now with a major economic and connectivity project being unveiled by China (the Belt and Road initiative) and the centrality of Pakistan in this regard – India will have to calibrate its responses in a very careful manner.

One fact is irrefutable. If this century is indeed to be an Asian century with China as the pre-eminent economic entity – then the texture of the Beijing-Delhi axis is critical to the realization of this exigency. An India that is suspicious of Chinese intent in South Asia and feels either cornered or boxed-in by Beijing’s covert support to Rawalpindi (the HQ of the Pakistani Army) will degrade, deflect and delay China’s rise.

In short, the China-Pakistan bilateral cannot be pursued as a zero-sum game that will be inimical to India. There is a deeply held consensus in Delhi that Beijing has provided opaque Weapons of Mass Destruction (nuclear weapons and missiles) support to Pakistan and consistently chosen to either ignore or tacitly endorse Rawalpindi’s investment in terror against India as a tool of state policy. This is unsustainable and Beijing’s silence over the release of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is illustrative of China and terrorism.

…with a major economic and connectivity project being unveiled by China (the Belt and Road initiative) and the centrality of Pakistan in this regard – India will have to calibrate its responses in a very careful manner.

For the huge fiscal investment that China is planning to make in Pakistan to be economically viable – the country must be stable and secure, and this is a far cry from the existing reality. If Pakistan is to effectively deal with the growing domestic radicalization and spiral of sectarian violence that has engulfed it – the ‘deep state’ that is complicit in supporting the Islamic right wing and terror groups has to be weaned away from this destructive addiction.

Gwadar in Balochistan is symptomatic of both the strategic opportunity that geography confers and the malignancy of short-sighted political manipulation that the Pakistani ruling elite have engaged in for decades.  Xi Jinping’s ambitious plan to invest in a grand land and sea route that would revive the rhythms of the old Silk Route is indeed visionary – but it has to first redress the prevailing ground realities in Pakistan.

The Xi article makes a normative reference to the need for a harmonious neighborhood and observes:  “China and Pakistan need to coordinate diplomatic strategies more closely to build a harmonious neighbourhood.  Our two countries have common or similar positions on major international and regional issues. It is important that we maintain close communication and coordination to protect our common interests and foster a peaceful and stable neighbouring environment.”

Surely China cannot have a ‘similar’ position with Pakistan/Rawalpindi in relation to terrorism and this contradiction cannot be glossed over. This is the sub-text that will be carried over to the Xi-Modi meeting later in May when the Indian prime minister visits Beijing.

Courtesy: http://southasiamonitor.org/detail.php?type=sl&nid=11409

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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

Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (Retd.)

is Director of the Society for Policy Studies. He can be contacted at cudaybhaskar@spsindia.in

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7 thoughts on “Xi visit to Pakistan: Strategic implications for India

  1. @Munsif: I understand where you are arguing from. However, either you are actually stupid or pretending to be stupid. Your nonsensical argument that 20 nukes on Pakistan will bring calamity on Earth is idiotic, at the least.

    I will give you some examples – so far, the US has conducted more than 1000 nuclear tests, composed of heaps of nukes above 100 kt output. Soviet Union conducted more than 700 nuclear tests. Has world gone to disaster?? No, actually, nothing has changed. Which means 20 bombs on Pakistan will not create much of an environmental effect. Additionally, 20 nukes X 150KT would come to 3 Megaton only. American tests at Bikini Atoll were five times more than this. What else, Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba test was above 50 Megaton. So, this environmental argument is nonsense. Nuclear attack on Pakistan will have no Indian or environmental fallout.

    Second, Paki bombs are old 10-20 kt ones and of Chinese design. Going by Chinese reputation, half of them will not work and will be worse than dud. Same with Paki missiles. Moreover, Paki second strike possibility can be neutralised by India dropping its NFU posture. No country except India has adopted NFU so once it is dropped, sudden realisation will drive into Paki fossilized brains that end of the days is right at front.

    Bottomline, Terrorist State of Pakistan (TSP) is gradually coming closer to its end, pretty soon. As they say, there was no Pakistan and there will be no TSP. Bhagwad Gita says – whatever is born has to die one day. Pakistan was born in 1947, its end is coming soon. Pass me the popcorn please !!!!!

  2. Grampian: you really have proven my point. There have been two mistakes committed in the sub continent. First one was when Bahdur shah zafar allowed East India company to establish itself the second one was when India exploded its nuclear weapons. With all the conventional superiority, India just gave up its overwhelming advantage. You live in a fools paradise (Apologies for the expression). Do you think Pakistan will sit back and allow you to do what you so ably describe? Ether you don’t live in India or you don’t care for Indians to be talking like that. I don’t want war, not because I am afraid of India, its because of the implications for both the countries and the world at large. Do u have any idea what a nuclear war is? let me quote “Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.” – International Committee of the Red Cross, 2010.
    Imagine if 20 of your weapons explode in Pakistan and 20 explode in India. Do you honestly think Kashmir or India or for that matter Pakistan will really be on peoples mind who would be suffering?
    So before you start rambling your incoherent and senseless thoughts, stop and think. I know Indians have a weakness that they love to show their macho side. I sometime think that that stems from being an occupied territory for such a long time.

  3. Actually, CPEC is not a big problem at all. Gilgit-Baltistan was a disputed territory and it remains a disputed territory. China has interfered in a bilateral dispute in an interventionist way, on the side of Pakistan. India is bound by its parliamentary resolution to take the Rest of Kashmir back from Pakistan’s illegal occupation. So, India will have to devise mechanism to get those territories back. That will solve both problems together. Why??

    1. The two nation theory for artificial construction of Pakistan became irrelevant after the creation of Bangladesh. So, Paki claim on Kashmir is a non-justifiable nonsense. Their illegal occupation over the rest of Kashmir is an anomaly which has to be rectified, whether through peaceful means or by force.

    2. A small nation like Pakistan and its nuclear deterrence has no credible value. For example, North Korea doesn’t deter America, it is surviving on a misconception. Similarly, Pakistan is surviving on a misconception of deterrence. In the end, Pakistan is a 20 bomb wonder of 100kt boosted fission types. Surely, Pakistan will present India very soon with the opportunity to act in a decisive manner. Another Mumbai type terrorist attack or major conflagration of Kargil type will be a suitable opportunity to finish this problem, for once and for all.

    So, its about time that Indian defence establishment started planning on a counter strategy to take those lands back and remove this nonsensical problem comprehensively.

  4. No need to be apprehensive. why don’t you look at this an opportunity for India. You could also negotiate to open up trade routes to the CAR via Pakistan. Trade will bind us together. You forget the past and we will forget the past. If you keep harping on terrorism then we will blame you for countless problems you have created. E.G. Siachin, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, East Pakistan etc. President Musharraf had proposed an amicable solution to Kashmir, consider it, negotiate it further and give peace a chance. Otherwise you will keep your hatred and we will keep ours. This will be a sad thing. Have you ever noticed that in Pakistan we don’t hate the Indians, but, when I see your TV, I just see hatred. No doubt India is a great country, we wish you all the best.

    • I would like to address Munsif Zaidi’s first post, if I may. I appreciate Munsif’s desire to arrive at an amicable solution to the tensions between India and Pakistan. There are, however, some allegations that require clarification.

      Munsif alleges there are “ountless problems you have created”, where “you” presumably refers to India(ns), then goes on to list “Siachin, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, East Pakistan etc”. The problem with each of these examples is that they can be shown to have been initiated or sustained by Pakistan. The Siachen Conflict, for instance, was initiated by Pervez Musharraf; Afghanistan was an outcome of Islamabad’s (read the Pakistani Army’s) desire for “strategic depth”; the insurgency in Baluchistan is again an outcome of poor statemanship – witness the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, for example, and East Pakistan had nothing to do with India to begin with: Zia ul Haq refused to accept the result of an election that would have brought a Bengali majority to the fore in government there.

      I have no argument with Munsif’s desire for peace. I cannot, however, accept the logic of the proposed argument.

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