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Asia's Game of Thrones
China Puts Its Pakistani Partnership on Parade

China put its warming relationship with Pakistan on full display this week, sending Chinese forces to march side-by-side with Pakistani troops. FT:

Members of the Chinese army, navy and air force on Thursday took part in a special military parade in Islamabad in celebration of the day when Muslims in British-ruled India began formally advocating for the creation of a separate country.

While Chinese troops have operated in Pakistan before, they have never previously taken part in a ceremonial parade, something diplomats and military experts said showed how keen China is to deepen its military co-operation with Pakistan. Mamnoon Hussain, Pakistan president, termed China’s participation as a “historic event”. “Both (China and Pakistan) wanted to send a powerful signal [with] troops marching side by side,” said one diplomat.

China’s participation in the parade is not just pomp and circumstance. It is clear sign that China is moving closer to replacing the United States as the key Pakistani ally. The geopolitical logic of aligning with Pakistan is overcoming deep Chinese qualms about the stability and trustworthiness of Pakistani government.

China has been heading down this road for several years now. By selling arms to Pakistan, negotiating massive energy and infrastructure deals, and taking over Gwadar Port, Beijing has been expanding its footprint in Pakistan while Islambad’s relationship with Washington has waned. And the deepening ties are already paying off for both sides: China has gained a port on the Indian Ocean to consolidate its “string of pearls” there, Pakistan has gained a reliable source of arms and investment, and both countries are gaining a formidable partner against India. Strengthening bilateral military ties will help China better protect its investments in Pakistan, especially the ambitious network of roads, railways and pipelines that constitute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Amid all this win-win cooperation, one point of tension could be the Uighur issue. Beijing has long blamed Uighur militants for pushing a separatist agenda in Xinjiang; it has also directly accused Pakistan of harboring and enabling them. It is unclear whether China will make the Pakistani military throw its Islamist Uighur clients under the bus, but the issue could be a source of tension in the budding partnership.

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  • D4x

    Please add one very critical way China allies with Pakistan: China has thousands of troops building dams ‘for’ Pakistan, while the India-Pakistan water ‘wars’ heats up. “India, Pakistan head for showdown over Indus water; Delhi may skip US meet” Updated: Mar 25, 2017 18:00 IST

  • rheddles

    They deserve each other and the Afghans. US out.

  • Unelected Leader

    Haha too funny. The regime in Beijing supports the Pakis even with anti-air systems and BMD, yet complains when Seoul seeks defense a problem THEY helped create for Seoul. A smart US would have nothing to do with Beijing or islamabad. So many wasted years and wasted billions.

  • Kevin

    An alliance with Pakistan comes with a massive hidden cost – being pulled deeper into conflict with India that is easily avoidable. China has no fundamental conflict of interests with India but the string of pearls and a deepening alliance with Pakistan will draw China into conflict with India. Further China’s support will further embolden the Pakistani intelligence services to step up their support for terrorism against India.

    This all seems like a horrible replay of Wilhelmine Germany: Bismarck/Deng was able to steer a rising great power with amicable relations with most of the major powers but Wilhelm/Xi wanted to make their own mark and secure ther nation’s rightful place in the sun, antagonizing the great powers in the process who banded together against them, this growing isolation led them to be dependent on unstable allies like Austria, N Korea and Pakistan who used this leverage to drags their patrons into conflicts.

    In any case the US is well rid of feeling the need to placate the loathsome regime in Islamabad.

  • Neither nation has been a true ally of the United States…let their corrupt governments gravitate towards one another, they deserve each other.

  • Jon Robbins

    If China becomes Pakistan’s principal ally–vice the US–and we continue to try to impose regime change on Iran, keeping it in an adversarial status, then we have written off any possibility of playing a role in Central Asia. China is also making inroads in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, despite occasional setbacks.

    The idea that “China and Pakistan” are loathsome creatures who “deserve each other” is very short-sighted. If all we have in South and Central Asia is a strategic alliance with India, then we will have done rather poorly.

    Pakistan presents lots of problems, but it can’t just be written off as some inconsequential state whom we we would be well rid of.

    • Josephbleau

      China and Pakistan are two loathsome creatures who deserve each other. That is an irrefutable fact.

      • Jon Robbins

        A subjective judgment of “loathsomeness” is by its nature NOT a fact. And my point, in any case, was that even if one finds them loathsome, writing them off as such is likely to be strategically counterproductive.

  • FriendlyGoat

    To whatever extent Pakistani leaders even care about the sentiments of Pakistani people, I suspect they see alliance with China as bringing less religious “baggage” as alliance with USA. In other words, we are probably perceived as more “anti-Islam” than Chinese people are.

    • Josephbleau

      Sure, Chinese Uighur Muslims are regularly killed by the Chinese Committee but the US is evil because Trump kinda seems to hate. The difference between killing and kinda hate is not enough to cover the sin of the USA.

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