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Tuesday May 21, 2024

China, Pakistan, Israel and PM Kakar

By Abdullah Khan
September 23, 2023

In a recent address at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar made a statement that ignited a flurry of discussions and debates, both at home and abroad. In his speech, he likened Pakistan’s relationship with China to that of the United States and Israel. While some critics back in Pakistan raised concerns about this analogy, it is essential to recognize that PM Kakar’s statement aimed to shed light on the profound and multifaceted nature of Pakistan-China relations, rather than making a direct comparison.

The analogy PM Kakar used was not of his own creation. Instead, he drew from statements made by Chinese officials in the past, who referred to Pakistan as “China’s Israel.” This characterization has been echoed in various contexts, including Andrew Small’s book, “The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics,” where a former Chinese Army officer, General Xiong Guangkai, articulated that ‘Pakistan is China’s Israel.’ PM Kakar merely reiterated this notion to help the American audience comprehend the depth and significance of the relationship between Pakistan and China.

It is crucial to clarify that Pakistan never sought or aspired to be ‘China’s Israel.’ The analogy’s origin lies with Chinese diplomats and officials who saw similarities in the strategic dynamics of both relationships. PM Kakar’s use of this analogy was meant to emphasize that Pakistan’s alliance with China is unique and distinctive, bearing its own historical and geopolitical context.

What further solidifies this analogy’s historical context is a 13-year-old Al Jazeera English article published on October 28, 2010. This article quoted Chinese diplomats saying, “Pakistan is our Israel,” underscoring that PM Kakar’s reference was rooted in prior statements made by Chinese officials.

In front of one of the most influential American think tanks, PM Kakar delivered a powerful message, underscoring that Pakistan’s partnership with China cannot be compared to its relationships with other nations, including the United States. He highlighted Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to the ‘One China’ policy and the respect for China’s territorial sovereignty, demonstrating the depth of mutual understanding and shared interests. PM Kakar eloquently stated, “Pakistan and China have a lot in common in terms of the emerging threats within the region. There are commonalities on certain issues, such as the One-China policy, be it in Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, we do share … the stated goals that we would stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, and it is reciprocated by China.”

Furthermore, PM Kakar acknowledged the growing concerns and suspicions that some in the United States harbor toward Beijing. In doing so, he emphasized the importance of engagement, not containment, as the way forward in dealing with China. Drawing a historical parallel, he expressed hope that a rapprochement, akin to what Henry Kissinger achieved in the 1970s through Islamabad, could be realized soon.

PM Kakar’s candor during the CFR address was notable. He openly discussed the notion of a ‘China Containment’ policy that some American allies have considered. While the host, Mr. Stephen J. Hadley, tried to dismiss the idea of an official containment policy, PM Kakar diplomatically reminded him of the various policy papers and intellectual discourses within American academia and policymaking circles that suggest otherwise.

In essence, Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar’s statement was a resounding affirmation of the unbreakable bond between Pakistan and China. It served as a reminder that Pakistan values its relationship with China as a cornerstone of its foreign policy. While advocating for improved relations with the United States, PM Kakar made it unequivocally clear that Pakistan’s ties with China are non-negotiable. In an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape, Pakistan-China relations stand as a testament to the enduring strength of strategic partnerships built on mutual respect and shared interests.

The longstanding partnership between Pakistan and China is rooted in mutual respect, shared geopolitical interests, and a vision for regional stability and prosperity. It has withstood the test of time, evolving into a comprehensive relationship that encompasses trade, infrastructure development, security cooperation, and cultural exchanges.

One of the cornerstones of this enduring relationship is the ‘One China’ policy that Pakistan staunchly upholds. Pakistan’s unequivocal support for China’s territorial integrity, including sensitive issues related to Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan, reflects a shared understanding of sovereignty and territorial integrity - a principle that underpins the stability of nations in the international arena. This support extends beyond rhetoric to diplomatic and political arenas, reinforcing the depth of this bilateral friendship.

Furthermore, the economic dimension of the Pakistan-China relationship is of great significance. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has revolutionized the economic landscape of Pakistan. The multibillion-dollar investment in infrastructure, energy, and industry is a testament to China’s commitment to Pakistan’s progress. This initiative has not only boosted Pakistan’s economic growth but has also significantly enhanced its connectivity, attracting foreign investments and fostering regional economic integration.

The strategic importance of Pakistan in China’s foreign policy cannot be overstated. It serves as a vital link in China’s vision for a more connected world through the BRI. Geographically, Pakistan provides a gateway for China to the Arabian Sea, offering strategic access to important maritime trade routes.

This strategic alliance provides mutual benefits, ensuring security and stability in the region.

Moreover, the military cooperation between Pakistan and China further cements their relationship. Joint exercises, defense agreements, and the exchange of military expertise have strengthened both countries’ defense capabilities. This collaboration not only contributes to regional stability but also provides a counterbalance to potential security threats in the region.

In conclusion, the analogy used by Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar was a strategic and diplomatic attempt to articulate the depth and significance of Pakistan-China relations to a wider audience. Pakistan and China share a relationship based on mutual respect, shared geopolitical interests, and unwavering support for each other’s sovereignty.

This alliance has proven to be indispensable for regional stability and prosperity. As both nations continue to navigate complex geopolitical challenges, their strong and unbreakable bond remains a beacon of hope and a pillar of strength in an evolving global landscape.

The writer is the Managing Director at Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. He tweets at @AbdullahKhan333 Email: md@picss.net