The Sino-Pakistan relationship could well qualify as the perfect international relationship model
2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. This globally unique bilateral relationship has endured as a hardly uninterrupted, trust-bound and all weathered one. Sino-Pakistan friendship has survived numerous geostrategic changes. From the India-Pakistan wars in 1965 and 1971, Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, the normalization of Sino-India relations from 1989 onwards, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Socialist camp, the global counter-terror war after 9/11 with Pakistan as a frontline state; the geostrategic competition and rivalry between China and the US and between the Belt & Road Initiative and Indo-Pacific Strategy in the sub-continent.
It is safe to say that ever since these two countries first established diplomatic relations, bilateral ties have witnessed smooth development without a visible hiccup. The Sino-Pakistan relationship could well qualify as the perfect international relationship model.
There have been at least five reasons contributing to such a unique solid bilateral relationship.
First, there have not been any structural conflicts and outstanding disputes between China and Pakistan e since they signed the Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement in 1963. This dispute-free bilateral relationship has paved the way for the two countries to cooperate in many areas.
Second, both countries have a shared view and understanding of regional order and issues. They would not like to see this region dominated by one prevailing power from within or without. In the past 70 years, they have made unceasing endeavours in contributing to a more balanced regional power structure. For example, China and Pakistan fought together vigorously against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s. Nowadays, these two countries are making more efforts in regional integration under the BRI framework.
Third, the two sides have understood each other’s concerns and interests. For example, successive Chinese governments have been supportive of Pakistan’s approach in addressing the Kashmir Issue. Another example is how successive Pakistani governments have constantly supported China’s positions on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, South China Sea Issue, etc., ever since the 1960s. It has been the regular practice of both China and Pakistan to support each other on international platforms.
Before the launch of CPEC, the bilateral ties had mainly relied upon two posts, top-level political exchanges and military or defence cooperation. However, since the Chinese leader President Xi has internationally raised BRI and the commencement of CPEC, this bilateral relationship has steadily and rapidly been supported by two more pillars: economic and trade ties as well as people-to-people interaction. As a result, the Sino-Pakistan relationship is now guided by top-level leaders and pushed forward vigorously by the political parties, trans-border companies, civilian societies, defense industries, military forces, etc.
This unique bilateral relationship has won overwhelming public support in two societies, regardless of their ideologies, educational backgrounds, identities, social status, physical locations, generations, professions, etc., which is the only phenomenon in international politics.
However, the Sino-Pak relationship is not free of challenges. Changes in world politics, including de-globalization, de-coupling, identity politics obsession, reshaping of supply and production chains, major powers’ geostrategic competition etc., are bound to affect the two allies. However, challenges can be overcome with inner harmony and mutual regard for each other’s policies and practices.
Efforts in the right direction will certainly help sustain the Sino-Pak ties. Both China and Pakistan should ensure that the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a success. They must curtail the re-emergence of the Cold War pattern in South Asia, incited through geopolitical games of major powers.
The writer is the Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations