Ambassador (Retd) Riaz Muhammad Khan, former foreign secretary visited IPRI to deliver a lecture on “Pakistan-China Relations and Evolving Geopolitics of Asia” on February 17, 2017.
He highlighted the contours of bilateral relations and said that political relations between Pakistan and China that span over six decades have remained constant. He said that Pakistan was among first few countries that recognized People’s Republic of China and established diplomatic relations. He said that the relations were strengthened with the signing of border agreement between two states.
As regards, strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China, both states have been cooperating in defence and nuclear field. He highlighted that prior to joining NSG in 2004, China had concluded nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan in 2003.
Ambassador (retd) Khan identified that economy and trade are the weak areas in bilateral relations. He said that both states signed Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) in 2003, China gave Pakistan concessions in almost all the fields but Pakistan, due to lack of storage facilities did not have the capacity to take advantage. He said that China had significantly invested in heavy industrial sector e.g. Karakorum Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex, and Sports Complex etc. He stated that China would have invested five to ten times more in case of Pakistan’s better security situation. He said that China has launched China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project after Pakistan’s security situation has improved. He highlighted that China has surplus capital to invest and if Pakistan’s security situation is further improved then China can make more investments here.
While highlighting tourist potential of Pakistan, he said that Chinese companies might be interested in investing in hotel industry. Similarly, while recognizing lack of student exchange programmes between two states, he said that there are around 80,000 Chinese students in United States and 200,000 Chinese are studying in India but there are only 5,000 Chinese students in Pakistan.
While talking about geopolitics of Asia, he said that multipolar world order is emerging with focus on regional economic organizations. He referred to Afghan conflict and said that Pakistan needs to understand that the country that hosts people like Afghan refugees suffers more than any other country. Good governance need not to be based on belief system. In this modern world rights of women and minorities need to be protected. He said that new US Administration has been focusing on protectionist trade policies as well as cultural threats from Islam and Muslims. He highlighted that militarily, US is the only superpower having global reach and for the next fifty years, the primacy of west will continue. He said that China has embarked upon the path of building economic blocs as after the independence of Central Asian Republics (CARs), it signed border agreements with CARs on existing boundaries, restored the confidence of the people and became the largest trading partner of CARs. He said that China had been an active member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its current One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative also shows its efforts for peaceful and stable neighborhood.
Pakistan-China relations span over six decades and cordiality of relations has remained a constant in bilateral relations. China has stood by Pakistan and had exercised veto power in favor of Pakistan in the UNSC at different times. Ambassador Khan said that China is a major player in global politics but it has some limitations as well. Pakistan needs to keep its house in order and avail the new opportunities.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speaker and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.