The two fundamental actors in today’s international political world order are, China and United States. As the strategic great power competition between U.S China intensifies with G7 group planning to counter China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) aiming for a partnership for global infrastructure and investment. According to Joe Biden, it’s not just a humanitarian concern, it’s an economic and a security concern for all. In a deliberate way, G7 infrastructural plan offers an alternate to China’s BRI according to Europe and America.
Amid this furious great power competition, other states in between are striving to position themselves within the rapidly evolving world order. Pakistan being one of them, since Pakistan’s foreign policy is defined by relations with China and United States. As of now Pakistan has not exclusively taken a side with either China or United States, but the question is how long Pakistan maintain this flimsy position or will Pakistan manage to uphold a balance between the two great powers.
Lately Pakistan launched its National Security Policy (NSP) signifying it does not want to be a part of ‘camp politics’. Pakistan is more focused in deepened economic cooperation. Establishment of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2015, as a frame of reference. The ever-changing circumstances allowed and even forced Pakistan to diversify its avenues of friendship, a cooperation at global level and not just with America or even China alone.
Pakistan Relations With U.S. & China
Over the period of time United States has proved to side line Pakistan, repeatedly. With Pakistan either being thrown into the Pressler amendments or being told outright that United States does not need Pakistan because it has now a much bigger partnership with India. Pakistan realized that being in Western ‘camp politics’ for a good long time really didn’t helped it in anyway.
With respect to Sino Pak relations, Pakistan and China not only share a boarder (the Khunjerab Pass) but also close Strategic Cooperative Partnership with each other. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf referred to China as Pakistan’s “time-tested and all-weather friend“, while in return Chinese leader Hu Jintao has referred to Pakistan as “a good friend and partner“. Pakistan was the first country to recognize People’s Republic of China (PRC) sharing diplomatic relations ever since 1951 shortly after the Republic of China lost power in the Mainland in 1949.
Earlier, The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has referred to the relationship as “close as lips and teeth,” while President Xi Jinping has described it as “unbreakable and rock-solid.” The Iron Brotherhood is posit upon a long history of diplomatic, defense, and economic ties.
Pakistan is also a victim of global economic crisis. Amidst the economic recession period in Pakistan, China stood by it as a loyal partner. When the world shunned cash strapped Pakistan for economic help (loans) may it be Saudi Arabia or Türkiye, it was China that stood firm. On June 22, Pakistan signed a 15-billion-yuan (USD 2.3 billion) loan facility agreement with a Chinese consortium of banks to help the country’s cash-strapped economy in the wake of depleting foreign exchange reserves and depreciation of its local currency.
Why Pakistan Matters?
The strategically relevant geographical location of Pakistan makes it a prime focus in the great power rivalries. Either its Russian obsession to access warm waters of the Arabian sea via Pakistani territory or U.S. proxy support since cold war till Afghan War, Pakistan remains pertinent all weather.
Since the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2013 and later Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in 2018. China came under limelight in the international arena, in the global and regional evolving power matrices. The hegemon after cold war United States perceived China as its strategic rival, hence the strategic rivalry of great power. Presently, China under current president Xi Jinping is a global superpower. With the world’s second-largest economy. China has a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, a modernised armed force and an ambitious space programme.
China has the potential to replace the United States as the greatest superpower in the future. But China looks at it differently, Beijing desires to rule over the global economy rather than aiming for global hegemony. Every now and then, China has emphasised over the fundamental responsibility of status equality and role of both Beijing and Washington as global leaders.
With great power comes great international responsibility.
Pakistan being one of the major powers in South Asia with nuclear capabilities, plays a significant role in the regional peace and stability. With respect to US-China strategic rivalry, the alliance formation in the south Asian region is very much patent. Where U.S allies with India for a much bigger partnership, as India is third-largest economy in the world, abandoning long term relations with Pakistan. Pakistan has to strengthen its relations by diversifying its avenues of friendship, a cooperation at global level and not just with America alone, may it be China or even Russia.
Since China and India does not blend well together given the old border disputes. China and Pakistan began to solidify their strategic cooperation and brotherhood further more. This alliance formation between U.S. – India and China – Pakistan creates a balance of power in the south Asian region, likewise, enhancing the deterrence between Pakistan and India.
With the current Global economic crisis and Pakistan economic recession, political crisis, it’s an obligation for Pakistan to peruse its national interests and leave behind efforts that are forsaken in the past. If Pakistan takes a side in the contemporary times (in case of China), it may face unwelcome diplomatic scenarios by others, those who control the IFIs. The rising tension between US – China over Taiwan strait, South China Sea, US deliberate policies and measures to counter China (AUKUS, QUAD, G7) pressurize Pakistan. Considering, Pakistan is under IMF debt, US at the moment has every right to manipulate Pakistan by molding in its feasible options ‘US vs Them’. This causes serious implications for Pakistan internally and externally, at regional and global level.
This is why Pakistan must endeavour a balanced relationship with both great powers to endorse its national interests, brushing off any inclination with any of the two at any given period.