A broad range of literature has been published so far on the rise of China, the decline of the West and the potential repercussions of these developments on the balance of power in South and Central Asia. The above mentioned developments will transform the entire strategic and political landscape of South Asia and will have far reaching consequences for Pakistan. With geographical, social and religious links ranging back to at least two thousand years, Pakistan and China have embarked on a new venture of strategic and economic partnership after 2005 and the recent agreements in 2015.
The central question remains the same: Why would the Chinese assist Pakistan by risking their navy, engineers and technical experts into Pakistani territory for the execution of CPEC and the Gwadar Port? Well, there seems to be a strategic angle to this equation. The Malacca dilemma is one of the most pressing foreign policy concerns of China. The Chinese aspire to maintain their economic growth to help them achieve their great power ambitions. In order to satisfy their energy requirements, the Chinese need an uninterrupted supply of oil but it lacks the naval power to secure its Sea lines of communications. China imports 60 percent of its oil from the Middle East and this figure is expected to rise upto 75%. The Strait of Malacca is a narrow passage between Malaysia and Indonesia with Singapore on its Southern tip. Due to the strong ties of Singapore with the Anglo-American bloc, Chinese need a safe passage of oil into China from the Middle East. Therefore, the only passage that allows their imports to enter is through Gwadar, Pakistan.
This article is an attempt to summarize the strategic importance of Pakistan to the People’s Republic of China. Many commentators have focused on the economic ties between the countries while specifically referring to the $ 46 Billion that has been promised to Pakistan in the form of loans and aid. One of the most important questions asked about in the media today are as follows: why are the Chinese willing to spend so lavishly in Pakistan? How is the terrorism-plagued Pakistan going to facilitate China in exchange for the 46 billion dollars? There are also some myths associated with the questions being asked. One of the myths is that the 46 billion dollars are not going to be a gift for Pakistan from China. Most of the amount is going to be spent on infrastructure including the China Pakistan Economic corridor and the Gwadar Port. Second, the Chinese will oversee and monitor the financial resources themselves. Third, the amount that will be spent on energy projects will be provided as a loan to Pakistan.
One important aspect of Chinese foreign policy is that they have learnt from American mistakes in the region. They have identified that investment in infrastructure is the first step towards political stability and economic prosperity in the region. They haven’t intervened in the domestic political decisions of Pakistan. The Chinese have promised Pakistan to assist in its major foreign policy issues regardless of their nature as long as Pakistan promises stability in the regions where both countries share their borders. For instance, China vetoed Indian appeals in the UN to arrest Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the leaders allegedly involved in support of the freedom fighters in Indian held Kashmir.
Co-operation from the Pakistani state will enable China to rid itself of the Malacca Dilemma and continue with its ambitious One Belt, One road plan to connect East Asia with South and Central Asia, Africa and Europe. Pakistan’s geostrategic location, known as the geostrategic curse, has enabled Pakistan to act as a central stakeholder in the rise of China, and if they play it by the rules this time, South Asia.