The Chinese vision of Sino-Pak strategic partnership : II
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Issue Vol 25.3 Jul-Sep2010 | Date : 18 Nov , 2010

Energy Corridor through Pakistan

As per the Chinese strategy, Pakistan is an overland thoroughfare for China’s access to the Middle East energy resources. Chinese media viewed that the significance of this corridor will only be felt at the time of China’s need to send its troops to secure the energy resources. “Hypothetically if the ‘petty Pak’ breaks its alliance with China, can it stop China from the latter’s objective? In case of a more intense war scenario, the Middle East petroleum export will be seriously affected. The worst affected will be Europe, not China.

Chinas maritime strategy cannot be sailing from one sea to another. It ought to be from land to sea, to approach the ocean with the help of a land bridge. China should rely upon the strength of its traditional partners in South Asia, and lose no time in intensifying its campaign in the Indian Ocean.

At least when the West imposes sanctions against China, it will be Israel that would firmly continue its military cooperation with China. In such a case, Israel will be controlling the Middle East petroleum. And China can get a share of that soup. Even now a big portion of China’s resources come from Africa. Therefore, if Pakistan assumes self-importance on this account, it will be its greatest mistake.”

On 23 November 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao reached Pakistan. Next day the Chinese website reported under the title “Hu in Pakistan to expand bilateral trade, friendship” that Pakistan is an impoverished country of 160 million people which has been seeking increased foreign investment to help boost its infrastructure and industry demands, as well as expand much-needed energy sources. Bashir, the ambassador, said that China and Pakistan have established a framework to expand energy cooperation. They will investigate building an energy corridor providing Beijing access to oil and gas resources of Central and West Asia and developing oil refining and storage facilities in Pakistani coastal areas.

According to a report7 by Xu Yihe, titled “China says no to Pakistan gas link”, dated 23 March 2010, the pipeline to China was proposed as an important extension to the Iran-Pakistan link. A Chinese official was quoted saying that the pipeline project has questionable economic feasibility and technical reliability, as it will run through high mountains with complex terrain, giving rise to concerns of operational safety and maintenance requirements. “We would prefer instead to import gas from Iran directly,” he said. His comments were made just days after Pakistan and Iran endorsed an agreement to build a pipeline to export Iranian gas from the South Pars field to Pakistan.

The India Factor

Just after the grand military parade at the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, a website8, labelled military, reported on 2 October 2009 that “China’s display of advanced weapon systems have once again given India a big terrifying jolt.” The report says that “India’s purchase of defence equipments from abroad took leaps and bounds thrice in the past. And all these purchases were the result of India’s policymaking, keeping China in view.

“¦ Pakistan is an overland thoroughfare for Chinas access to the Middle East energy resources. Chinese media viewed that the significance of this corridor will only be felt at the time of Chinas need to send its troops to secure the energy resources.

In 1962, during the Sino-Indian border clashes, India’s military expenditure exceeded 70 percent. The Indian forces were routed. That year India’s arms purchase was necessitated by a policy directly influenced by China.

The second occasion was in 1987. This was when India proclaimed the founding of the “illegal” state of Arunachal. Unprecedented tension prevailed in Sino-Indian relations. Small scale armed confrontation took place at the border. India deeply felt that it could not match China in military might. Thereafter India’s defence purchase reached 43.4 percent though 200 million Indians lived below poverty line.

The third instance was in 2000. The expenditure reached 28.2 percent. The outside world thought this was a fallout of the Kargil War between India and Pakistan. But in reality this was only partially true. Is such a big purchase necessary to tackle a few hundreds of armed Muslims? In fact, the actual reason was that China had its military parade on the 50th anniversary of the PRC in 1999. India felt it cannot match China.

“As is known to all, India since long has been having mainly two strategic objectives in military affairs. Firstly, to continue maintaining and strengthening absolute military superiority in the South Asian subcontinent. Secondly, to assume self importance by seizing the ocean. It hopes to become a global military power in a single leap, and be on an equal footing with other big nuclear powers. Out of the two military objectives of India, the first one has almost been fulfilled. But the second objective is in fact extremely difficult for India to attain. The main reason is the China factor.”

“In the early years of its independence, India’s national power was even greater to some extent than the newly founded China. But after sixty years of development, China’s national strength has increased rapidly, leaving India far behind. That is why India’s feeling for China is a mixture of envy, jealousy, and even fear and hatred. Therefore they want to compare everything with China. But they do not have such foundation for war industry like China. What’s the way out? The only way is large scale purchase from abroad.

“Since disputes exist between China and India over territorial rights, there are live cinders that have the potential to ignite war. And again since the Indian army feels threatened by the Chinese army, India can only purchase advanced weapons in large quantity. That is how they feel secure. This time during the 60th anniversary grand military parade in China, some advanced weapon systems were on display. India once again got frightened. Its sense of insecurity got heightened. This would be followed by India’s going for a mad shopping spree in military equipments. Even if they do not wish to purchase further, the Americans would lure and intimidate them to go for huge weapons purchase. Indian brains are such that allurement and threat have great impact on them. China predicts that India would once again go for a big arms purchase in 2010.”

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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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