Pivots and counter-pivots
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan few days back was received with much fanfare and excitement. Not only the government, but also the opposition parties, civil society and the public showed much enthusiasm for the visit of their ‘iron brother’ and ‘all-weather friend’. The two-day trip concluded on a positive note, with Pakistan and China signing the economic and strategic projects worth more than $46 billion. On the broader line, the projects are part of China’s ‘One-Belt, One-Road’ strategy aiming at connecting the East Asia with the Central Asia and Europe. According to the Chinese vision, Pakistan would act as a corridor linking China to the rest of the World — ‘Pakistan-China Economic Corridor’.
Beyond the economic side, Pakistan and China, as reported by the media, also closed a deal on the sale of eight sub-marines to the Pakistan navy. In return, Pakistan has decided to hand over the Gwadar port on a 40-year lease to China. The port would be essential for the over-all Chinese vision of New Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with the Indian-Ocean. It would host the Chinese facilities to service the ships and submarines of China’s navy operating in the Indian Ocean.
Beyond the economic side, Pakistan and China, as reported by the media, also closed a deal on the sale of eight sub-marines to the Pakistan navy. In return, Pakistan has decided to hand over the Gwadar port on a 40-year lease to China
The kind of agreement reached between Pakistan and China is witness to the fact that the present world order is no more based on Ideology. The ideological order has become more of an ‘economic order’, with economy taking over the ideology in determining state relations. In the last century, the World was divided into ‘Capitalist World’ dominated by the US and the ‘Communist World’ dominated by the Soviet Union. After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989, the US enjoyed the status of a sole super power, thereby attracting the developing world towards itself. The international rules and norms were dominated by the US, and any defiance to the ‘imposed rules’ by the developing world was followed by sanctions. For example, The Pressler Amendment and democratic sanctions on Pakistan in the 90s, and its negative repercussions on its economy explain much about the kind of world order of that time. The 21st century once again brought a shift from Uni-polarity to the multi-polarity. And the present world order is not only dominated by the US in alliance with the European world. Now, China is an emerging power, sometimes substituting the US and at other times, complementing it. Pakistan is benefiting from China’s rise in terms of economy and defence.
Being the first country to recognise the People’s Republic of China in 1950, Pakistan is reaping the fruits of taking a tough decision in the times of the Cold War. From that day onwards, both Pakistan and China supported each other’s stances and claims in the International world. China always used its veto-power in the UNSC for any resolution going against Pakistan, and diplomatically, stood behind Pakistan in its relations with India. Likewise, Pakistan also supported China in its tensions with India. In the recent joint-session of parliament, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once again reaffirmed its support to ‘One-China Policy’ and described China’s security as Pakistan’s security. The above-mentioned short history of Pak-China ties explain much about why the relations between both countries are full of emotional statements like, ‘Bigger than Himalayas, Deeper than oceans, Sweeter than Honey’.
In the case of Pakistan, US economic assistance of $7.5 billion for five years is nothing compared to the Chinese investment of $48 billion. Naturally, Pakistan would shift its focus more towards China, perhaps at the cost of the US
One may wonder why such sentiments are not for the United States, with whom Pakistan has been in alliance for many decades. Since 1950s, Pakistan has been the recipient of the US military and economic aid. Without the US support, it might have not been possible for Pakistan to develop its conventional military power vis-à-vis India. Then why is ‘anti-Americanism’ so high in Pakistan? It seems that there is some flaw in the US State Department.
As mentioned above, state-relations are now determined by economics not ideology. This is the reason that the US Pivot to Asia is aimed at economic connectivity and trade partnerships with Asian states. To counter China’s influence in Asia, the US envisioned the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’ — TPP agreement. However, it seems that China has diluted the fanfare of the Pivot by giving its own Asian pivot in terms of the One Belt One Road initiative and the New Maritime Silk Road. The US, on the other hand, is once again involved in the Middle Eastern crisis, particularly post-Arab Spring issues, the rise of ISIS and the Iranian nuclear deal. To counter the US, China is investing heavily in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, the recent formation of AIIB would further boost China’s ‘soft power’ in the world; once the bank starts financing infrastructure and development projects in the developing countries.
So where does the US stand? In the case of Pakistan, US economic assistance of $7.5 billion for five years is nothing compared to the Chinese investment of $48 billion. Naturally, Pakistan would shift its focus more towards China, perhaps at the cost of the US. Although the US signed arms deal with Pakistan worth $1billion, yet Pakistan has been building its defence ties with China, as evident from the sale of Chinese submarines. If the US really wants to counter China’s Asian pivot (1B1R project, New Maritime Silk Road), it has to focus on its old allies and finance their economic needs. In this case, the US needs to re-analyse its policy regarding Pakistan. In the world order dominated by economic dependencies, developing countries like Pakistan would naturally go where they find funding and investment