One-day Media Workshop
“Pakistan’s Relations with US, China and Russia”
Organised by: Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad
Date and Venue: August 29, 2018 at IPRI Conference Hall
The second one-day media workshop on “Pakistan’s Relations with US, China and Russia,” focused on complexities of the relations, specifically whether or not Pakistan has been managing the complexities effectively and efficiently. The workshop participated by the foreign policy experts and provided a good opportunity for young journalists/reporters to enhance their understanding on such important relations and the issues involved. Three scholars who spoke at the workshop included: Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies, Ambassador (R) Fauzia Nasreen, Head, Center for Policy Studies, and Ambassador (R) Tajammul Altaf, former Additional Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The workshop was moderated by Ambassador (R) Abdul Basit, President IPRI. The workshop was attended by a selected group of journalists, diplomats, and IPRI scholars.
Ambassador (R) Abdul Basit, President, IPRI, opened the workshop with his welcome address. He expressed his gratitude to the speakers and participants for attending the second media workshop. During his address, Ambassador (R) Abdul Basit stressed the importance of capacity building of media personnel in understanding the complexities involved in foreign policy related issues and reporting on subject in a manner which is in congruence with Pakistan’s perspective on foreign policy related issues.
Mr. Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies gave his presentation on “Pakistan’s Relations with United States”. He observed, currently United States (US) has lost its relative leverage since Pakistan has drifted closer towards China. However, with respect to Pakistan’s engagement with China, he emphasized that Pakistan should have negotiated better loan deals with China. Explaining the US concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear programme, he pointed out that during 1990s when Pressler amendments were first legislated; abetment of terrorism was also made a part of it. According to him, nuclear non-proliferation already remained an obsession with the US elite, however, terrorism and role of non-state actors such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Haqqani network, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Taliban all were made part of non-proliferation. Consequently, combination of these two elements can become a thorny issue for Pakistan-US diplomacy.
He added, the anticipated appointment of Khalilzad as United States special envoy to Afghanistan is prickly development for Pakistan because he is known to have espoused venomous views about the country along with his other observation is on India and the manner in which it has shaped discourse on Pakistan. Explaining the issue of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he observed, that action against groups such as Jamat ud Dawa (JuD) and LeT should have been taken by Pakistan back in November 2017 rather than delaying until February 2018. Consequently, as result of Indian and American diplomacy, Pakistan was placed on watch list and subsequently on grey list.
Discussing the Afghanistan issue, he noted, the current Trump administration believes that Iran should be kept outside the ongoing negotiation process in Afghanistan. He highlighted, the current major challenge for Pakistan is how it can maintain a balance between US and its strategic partner China. The country needs to pursue a policy, which could draw a balance between the two key countries, he added.
Talking about the possible Pakistan’s quest for monetary assistance, he noted, it could possible for Pakistan that the country may not need to go to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for seeking a bailout; it can seek assistance from China and Saudi Arabia. He endorsed his above mentioned point that it is very realistic to strike a balance between China and United States as long as Pakistan does not turn for financial assistance from the IMF. He stressed, it is important for Pakistan to set its house in order, by taking advantage of the cooperation being extended by Chinese. In this context, the bureaucracy and the government of Pakistan will need to act strategically in order to benefit from the relationship being extended under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He further added that due to growing interest of China in Pakistan as compared to the past, Pakistan’s youth was looking towards the West, however, in the recent times; China is focusing on people to people interaction between Pakistani and Chinese people, especially when it comes to cultural interaction through its Confucius Institute spread across Pakistan.
Commenting on the outreach by different countries including Saudi Arabia on arrival of the new government in Pakistan he explained that Saudi Arabia demonstrated its inclination towards Pakistan, which is unprecedented as evident in the recent calls by Saudi King Salam and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. They have expressed interest to make investments in Pakistan.
Highlighting about the issue of balance of payment, he noted that, at the economic and financial front, Pakistan will need to work on limiting its imports. Therefore, the export-import bill needs to be rationalized, in order to ensure that Pakistan is able to upscale its exports, he added.
Mr. Imtiaz Gul emphasized that Pakistan needs to address some of the mutual concerns with respect to terrorism tabled by United States, and also by China, because realistically addressing these issues will be in interest of Pakistan. He warned that deferring or delaying the needed actions on money laundering could be resulted in drawbacks such as Pakistan’s experience at FATF plenary session when Pakistan was placed on the grey list.
Further, he highlighted two reasons for Pakistan’s placement on the grey list. First, it is a political reason owing to the diplomatic collusion between the US and India. Second, it is because of Pakistan’s involvement in Kashmir cause. In order to address these concerns, he stressed that Pakistan will need to find out a realistic plan to address this issue. Similarly, in the case of money laundering, Pakistan will need to fix the procedural issues. He added, the State Bank appears to be working diligently on the ongoing investigation concerning the case of Pakistan Rupees PKR 35 billion that took place in Sindh. Consequently, there is a higher probability that Pakistan will be able to successfully prosecute the accused individuals. He further emphasized that in order to address the issue of radicalization, the new government will need to give a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate and de-radicalize the spoilers.
Ambassador (R) Fauzia Nasreen, Head, Center for Policy Studies, gave her presentation on the topic “Pakistan’s Relations with Russia”. She focused her discussion on the evolving multi-polar world order, where realignments appear to be taking place, and importance of Russia is rising. Ms. Nasreen observed that Russia’s pivot to Asia is impacting the regional dynamics of South Asia and the world at large. She further added that Moscow is a geopolitical mass and a Eurasian power that has interests in both Europe and Asia. Russian interests in these regions are associated with developing economic linkages or relations. Therefore, it attaches great significance to Belt Road Initiative (BRI).
She noted that Pakistan and India’s inclusion in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has increased Russian interest in South Asia, particularly, when it comes to tensions between both countries, as well as curbing terrorism. Russia along with China can play an important role in strengthening confidence-building measures between Pakistan and India. She said that Russia appears to be moving away from India on the issue of Taliban in Afghanistan. In terms of Security, Moscow is concerned about an increasing role of the Islamic State (IS) in Central Asia. The traces of this apprehension can be traced to the civil war in Tajikistan, she added.
Elaborating the key elements of Russia’s foreign policy, she explained that Russia sees itself as a Eurasian power, with interest both in Europe and Asia. It has legitimate interest in Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia. Historically, Russia attaches a lot of importance to its role in the global politics. It also attaches a lot of interest in its neighboring states. She further elaborated that Russia is greatly influenced by (a) threat perceptions concerning Pakistan (b) fears of Pakistan being encircled by India through hybrid warfare. Therefore, counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan against IS remains of pivotal importance to Russia’s national interest. Ambassador (R) Nasreen pointed out that, recently, Russia cooperated with Tajikistan in order to attack drug traffickers that were smuggling drugs from Afghanistan. In past, Russia has also extended its support in combating threat of domestic terrorism that was being confronted by Tajikistan, she added.
Ambassador (R) Nasreen that said Russia is cooperating with India and Pakistan and encouraging both South Asian states to thaw their frozen ties. Highlighting the importance of intraregional economic initiatives, she said that Pakistan and Russia believe that transnational mega projects are paving the way for regional integration. Pakistan’s importance cannot be ignored in Eurasian integration and its geo-strategic location plays a pivotal role in the Belt and Road initiative, as well as in Eurasian Union integration.
Commenting on Pakistan-Russia energy cooperation, she noted that Russia has invested in power projects in Pakistan. It agreed to build the North-South Gas Pipeline, which would extend over 1100 kilometres from Lahore to Karachi. Furthermore, Moscow and Islamabad have been in talks since 2017 regarding the supply of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Pakistan, which would help the latter to meet its energy demands. However, due to sanctions imposed on Russia, the scope of cooperation between the two countries remains adversely affected.
Explaining the defence cooperation between Russia and Pakistan, she explained that both countries clearly intend to deepen military cooperation as both also intend to conduct and to improve political and security dialogue. She further added that Pakistan’s defence cooperation with China gives confidence with respect to arms supply. Similarly, Russia is supportive of military operations undertaken by Pakistan.
As far as counterterrorism cooperation is concerned, she highlighted that Russia has shown interest in enhancing Pakistan’s capability to counter the threat of terrorism. Kremlin has also described Pakistan as a key player against terrorism and extends its full support to Pakistan’s efforts in eliminating this menace. Keeping in view the mutual interest of regional stability, in September 2016 a counterterrorism exercise codenamed ‘Druzhbha-2016’ was held between the Russian and Pakistani Special Operations Forces in Cherat, despite Indian objections, she added.
In his presentation on “Pakistan-China Relations in the Perspective of CPEC Strategic Partnership,” Ambassador (R) Tajammul Altaf, former Additional Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), gave a comprehensive historical account of how China viewed itself in the past as the “Middle Kingdom”. He highlighted the role of Confucian philosophy, which played a role in expanding Sino-centric world order. Elaborating the Pakistan-China relation, he explained that Pakistan facilitated the first ever official contact and visit by US President Nixon to China in 1971. He further added that Pakistan-China relations encompass the fields of politics, economics, science & technology, defence and people-to-people contacts. In fact, the strength of this bilateral relations has led to birth of phrases such as “Friendship higher than Himalayas” “deeper than ocean,” “sweeter than honey” and “harder than steel. He observed that during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2015, the status of the relations was elevated to an “All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”, enriching the ‘Pakistan-China Community of Shared Destiny.’ He further explained that at present, a paradigm shift from ‘West to East’ is underway. Specifically, symbolism in Pakistan-China relations is of utmost importance, he added.
Highlighting the important role of interregional economic initiatives in bilateral relations, he elaborated that the current phase of Pakistan-China friendship is focused on Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and One Belt One Road (OBOR). In this regard, development of the Gwadar port is considered as a linchpin of the CPEC project as it is the second deepest port of the world. The development of infrastructure and industrial zones is also expected to bolster the development plans of both the states, he added. In reality, China has been a source of important economic support to Pakistan as evident in Heavy Mechanical Complex Taxila, Kamra, Chashma Nuclear Plants and other projects.
He suggested that Pakistan’s economic dependence on the US was exploited by the latter in the past, which can be managed with more engagement with the Chinese counterparts. He emphasized that in order to harness the benefits of deepening relations of Pakistan and China; there is a need to focus internally in terms of addressing the governance issues of Pakistan, as well as security and politics.
Explaining the aim of the CPEC project he said that the project is to facilitate trade along with an overland route that connects Kashgar-China and Gwadar-Pakistan, through construction of a network of highways, railways, energy sectors, and pipelines. The Corridor will rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and China.
He predicted that Pakistan’s GDP growth is expected to rise to 7 per cent by 2020. Moreover, under the CPEC 80,000 trucks will transport oil and gas, agricultural, industrial products and natural resources daily to Central Asian Region (CAR) and Russia to China, Asia, Africa and Europe via Gwadar Port. He further added that Pakistan is expected to earn annually US$ 5 billion by 2022, from toll collection, which would ease out the balance of payment.
He said that the relocation of light engineering sector’s industries from China and international foreign direct investment in special economic zones would be a major contributor to revenue, jobs and GDP growth. China annually imports US$ 2.4 trillion worth of food, therefore China is willing to import surplus crops, vegetables, fruits, beef, fisheries, seafood worth US$ 5 billion from Pakistan for China’s western region, he added.
Ambassador (R) Tajummul emphasized that Pakistan needs to address internal or structural challenges in addition to finding solutions. While defence or security of the country is important, however, it does not mean that it can overshadow efforts for building economy of the country. He further added that there is a need to learn from Chinese example, which reflects how consistent efforts can facilitate in achieving milestones. He stressed that Pakistan is required to bring economic reforms within the country. For instance, updating mechanism of tax collection in the country can improve economic policy as well. He suggested that new investors should be encouraged to invest in the country, especially if it is based on a win-win strategy.
- It is vital to turn Pakistan’s strategic location from being a liability to a major driver of the country’s economic asset by overcoming political expediencies.
- Pakistan’s leadership needs political will to carry out political and economic reforms for successful implementation of CPEC project & strengthening China-Pakistan All Weather Strategic Partnership.
- Pakistan needs to undertake institutional reforms and sync them with external opportunities to reap benefits of CPEC project.
- Russia is attaching greater importance to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) under which member countries can deal with terrorism-related issues. Connectivity is also vital for Kremlin under CPEC and the BRI, through the Eurasia Economic Union. Pakistan should augment necessary measure to make most of this opportunity.
- There is growing recognition in Russia that the Taliban should be engaged to achieve stability and security in Afghanistan. Russia wants that the Islamic State (IS) must be contained also and this is where the Pakistan- Russia interests converge for regional peace and stability.
- United States (US) has lost whatever leverage it had over Pakistan. Unfortunately, despite this, the world continues to judge Pakistan through US point of view, which needs to be countered.
- US-India strategic cooperation has squeezed Pakistan in multiple ways especially with respect to Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its role in Afghanistan. Pakistan, in this vein, needs to tackle US-India influence in the region on diplomatic front.
- Pakistan’s biggest challenge is creating a balance between its relations with the US and strategic partnership with China, while simultaneously maintaining good relations with its neighbours. Pakistan should continue to maintain good relations with the US and should not follow zero-sum game in its foreign policy options.
- CPEC will amplify Pakistan’s pivotal role in the connecting the region with the outer world and would provide immense economic opportunities to regional polity. For sustainable peace and stability in South Asia, there is a need of productive dialogues among Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
- The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform of Pakistan needs to analyze current and future trends in China’s developmental and foreign policy options to effectively evaluate their implications for Pakistan.
- The Government of Pakistan needs to ensure an effective and timely completion of all projects germane to CPEC.
- Ensuring security of Chinese workers and related personnel should be the top priority of Pakistani government for successful realization of CPEC.
- The financial obligations on Pakistan in regards to payment of CPEC loans-a mix grant, including long-term government concessional loans, zero-interest loans and investments-should be transparent and must be met timely.
- There is a need to focus on people-centric policies. If Pakistan does not pay heed to building the capacity of our population in terms of ensuring their wellbeing, progress cannot be achieved. In terms of challenges, Pakistan will have to work on managing its relations with the U.S., Russia and China.
- Generating a fresh debate and discussion among CPEC stakeholders to build Consensus is also need of the hour to quench disenfranchisement and ensure equal participation at all levels of the project.
- S. is exploiting Pakistan’s economic vulnerabilities through International Monetary Fund and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF); while India is using hybrid warfare tactics to sabotage CPEC projects. In this regard, Pakistan should fill the gaps in its Anti-Money Laundering Laws (AML) and bring black money back from foreign banks and offshore companies.
- Overseas Pakistanis should be encouraged to send remittances back to Pakistan through proper banking channels rather than hundi/hawala or other illegal means. Respectively, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative in this regard is a welcome one.
- Pakistan should learn from China’s experience as to how address challenges pertaining to its economy as China has fast-paced its economy in the last four decades and has improved living standards of its people.
- Pakistan needs to focus on both at strategic-macro level-visionary leadership, change mindset, continuity of policies- as well as micro level-stimulus for growth, diversify industries and agriculture, attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to stand in the comity of nations.
- Pakistan needs to preempt the Hybrid Warfare tactics i.e. subversive and clandestine activities, terrorism, imposed on it by its adversaries for smooth operationalization of CPEC projects.
- The Government of Pakistan needs to counter anti-CPEC propaganda launched by local analysts, social media, the US and India through soft and hard power.
- Pakistan needs to remove choke points at Gwadar (Balochistan) by taking the Balochs and should take Iranian leadership in confidence for juxtaposing Chahbahar and Gwadar Ports and for bringing durable peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
- It is pre-requisite for regional development by integrating the region economically synergizing CPEC, SCO, and ECO for economic integration.
- Governance crisis in Pakistan managed by putting its house in order; improving governance indicators, revamping its institutions, addressing dissent in Balochistan and KP, and investing in education, health and jobs.
- Perceptions of Pakistan’s inclination towards China are disturbing the US policy makers. Pakistan needs to change this perception through extensive diplomatic engagement with the US at various official and academic levels.
- Pakistan needs to create a balance between China and the US; otherwise Pakistan’s inclination towards China would antagonize the US.
- Iran and Pakistan are two important neighbours of Afghanistan. Currently, the US wants to exclude Iran from Afghanistan peace process. The exclusion of Iran from Afghanistan peace process will be detrimental to peace efforts in Afghanistan. Both, Iran and Pakistan should be part of this peace process for sustainable peace in the country.
- Pakistan’s National Security has been in grim situation due to unfriendly neighbourhood. The new government should take initiatives to develop friendly relationships with Pakistan’s neighbouring countries. This would reduce Pakistan’s National Security challenges.
- Media needs to understand the concepts and notions related to bilateral and multilateral relationships and agreements. This would ensure proper flow of information to the general public.
- Sometimes media doesn’t pay attention to important issues related to security and economy; rather it eagerly focuses on internal politics. This trend doesn’t educate public on important security and economic issues. Therefore, media should change its priorities and allocate ample time to pertinent issues related to security and economy of the country.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speakers and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.