President Obama visited India in November last year with a great pomp and show and left after bagging multi-billion dollars worth of agreements aimed to boost US economy. In spite of the media attention that this visit received, India was a loser at the end as it could not get President Obama to condemn Pakistan even mildly. This visit greatly disappointed Indian analysts who then started pinning hopes on the visit of China’s Premier Wen Jiabao. The Chinese PM visited Pakistan for three days after concluding his India visit of equal duration in December 2010. The fact that this visit was planned for both the countries in one go and that Islamabad was his last port of call made it very clear that in spite of its economic interests with, China considers Pakistan as its closest friend. This visit was critical for India for the expected growth of its trade with China.
However, in spite of a major shift in China’s posture towards India, the defense analysts of India are visibly disappointed and frustrated at the outcome of Chinese PM’s Pakistan visit. They complain that while there are discernable changes in China’s foreign policy, friendship with Pakistan has remained a constant. According to their analysis, a high point of the visit was the honor extended to the Chinese Premier to address Pakistan’s Parliament, an honor that India had offered to President Barack Obama during the latter’s visit to India in November. In his address entitled ‘Shaping the future together through thick and thin,’ Premier Wen used the phrase “brothers forever” to describe the relationship between the two countries. He went on to note that “China-Pakistan friendship is full of vigor and vitality, like a lush tree, with deep roots and thick foliage.” And he added that “China-Pakistan relationship is strong and solid, like a rock standing firm despite the pressure of time.” Besides reinforcing the strategic commitment to Pakistan, a number of important announcements were made during this address. Premier Wen also recalled Pakistan’s consistent and full support to China in the past at some crucial junctures on various issues, including Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.
In an article in the journal of India’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, India’s role and contributions at a very critical time when China was seeking admission to the United Nations have been enumerated. China has been reminded that when the Korean War broke out in 1950, India voted in favor of the United Nations action against the North, but when China entered the Korean war India resisted the condemnation of China as an aggressor by the General Assembly of the United Nations in order not to enlarge the area of hostility. In its efforts to bring about a settlement, India served as a channel of communication of Chinese intentions and requirements to the outside world, and consistently pressed for the recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the rightful representative in the United Nations. Further, in September 1951, India declined to attend the Conference at San Francisco for the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan because, among other reasons, China was not a party to it. Beijing should not forget these Indian efforts.
It has been lamented in the analysis that if the achievements of Premier Wen’s visit to India were more pronounced in terms of economic content, his visit to Pakistan was more characterized by political and strategic significance. Although China has been helping Pakistan in all fields, particularly in its defense modernization and development including the nuclear program, its recent help in mitigating the flurry of floods in Pakistan was unprecedented in its volume and magnitude, and suggests the depth of the strategic relationship between the two countries. China had offered about $ 250 million worth of aid to Pakistan. As part of the aid, China sent a team of experts to Pakistan in November last year to help Pakistan expedite its reconstruction work. An article in China Daily claimed that the aid to Pakistan has created many records in the history of China’s aid and relief work in other countries. The Chinese claim of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan has, however, been taken with a pinch of salt by the western media.
One more important announcement came when Premier Wen declared that China had decided to provide 500 government scholarships to Pakistan in the next three years, and that 100 Pakistani high-school students will be invited to participate in the Chinese Bridge Summer-Camp in China. Wen also said that China may explore the possibility of a currency-swap agreement with Pakistan. During his visit the two sides also signed 35 new pacts, expected to bring $30 billion of investment into Pakistan over the next five years.
The analysis concludes that China’s adversarial relationship with India has been one of the important factors in its all-weather friendship with Pakistan. Such an intimate relationship between the two had developed at a time when China’s global profile had not developed to the extent that is discernable now. Over the years, Sino-Indian relationship has also matured to a greater degree of engagement. China is now projecting itself as a responsible global power, beyond the sub-continent and the region. One can fathom China’s primordial commitment to Pakistan and China’s imperative need for Pakistan’s support to rein in Muslim separatists operating in China-Pakistan border in the Uygur region. India wants China to calibrate its relationship with Pakistan in the context of these changes and in such a manner so as not to arouse any misgivings in New Delhi.
Although India has expressed its misplaced concerns about China’s engagement in infrastructural projects in Pakistan’s Northern Areas which India claims to be a part of Kashmir held by it through brutal force, and about Beijing’s support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, the Sino-Indian relationship, according to the analysis has acquired an independent dynamism and is not hamstrung by the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan.
The major thrust of Indo-China relations is bi-lateral trade while both the countries have put their serious disputes on the back-burner. This, however, does not imply that their mutual relations have improved and that their trade relations should affect Pakistan-China relations. China’s stand on Kashmir is not muted and is clearly expressed through grant of visas to the residents of Indian-held Kashmir. This is no secret that USA has outsourced the job of containment of China in Indian Ocean to India as a business case and China and the world fully understand that China and India are, in effect, two adversaries. This is also no secret that China is an emerging power to challenge the USA and alter the uni-polar world order and India is only acting as an agent of status quo (read: USA) to block China’s march towards assuming its rightful place of a world power.