Gilgit (RP): Pak China border will close for all kind of traffic and business activity from Saturday. According to protocol signed between both the countries the border remain close due to snowfall on 31st December and open on first May every year.
Speaking in Jhelum on November 24, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that Pakistan-China relations were purely strategic and were not against any other country, and that they would actually help in the promotion of regional and global peace. He had just attended the closing ceremony of a two-week-long Pakistan-China Joint Military Exercise Friendship-IV-2011.
Lest the world take him as speaking tongue-in-cheek, he added that China’s security was dear to Pakistan and such joint exercises would strengthen relations between the two countries, which were facing the common threat of terrorism. He further disarmed regional and global suspicion by pointing to the fact that Pakistan was in the routine of having such joint exercises with other countries as well and had conducted them with 50 other countries.
But the sad truth is that conflict is still the working paradigm in South Asia and in the world. When General Kayani said ‘purely strategic’ relations with China, he probably thought that this would take the adversarial regional mind away from ideas of hostile combinations of force. The fact is that the Jhelum exercise will not fail to elicit negative interpretation and much of that will be based on ‘explanatory’ statements made in Pakistan but not in China, where foreign policy intent is not worn by the politicians on their sleeves.
Unless suspicion is disarmed through codependent trade relations with India, the neighbouring state will go towards seeing any Pakistan-China development as directed against it. India sees much more in the Karakoram Highway, built by the Chinese, than just a trade artery. It says it is a flanking move to challenge India in Kashmir, where Indian troops are deployed, and that Chinese troops are actually deployed in the Gilgit-Baltistan region (something that both Pakistan and China have denied). India has always linked Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its weaponisation to China. The rest of the world, too, is suspicious of China’s policy towards South Asia in general and Pakistan-Afghanistan in particular.
In Pakistan, strategists don’t help by looking at the American presence in Afghanistan as being aimed against China — as a challenge to China’s forward move in Central Asia. Pakistani leaders openly say that new contacts with China should be aimed at shifting Pakistan’s big traditional dependencies on America to its all-weather friend, China. Of course, this can have its negative effects in Pakistan, where cheap Chinese imports could deal a devastating blow to local industry and businesses.
What makes matters worse is that Pakistan’s relationship with China is — as is much of foreign policy— dictated by the military which dominates policymaking and sets the narrative and public discourse on how we perceive and deal with the outside world. This is perhaps why we are programmed to look at relations with China as a counter to Indian influence in the region and seem to prefer it over relations with America, which happens to be one of our largest aid donors and largest trading partners. Over time, the elected civilian government in Pakistan needs to take greater ownership of this bilateral relationship so that it can be weaned away from purely defence to social sectors. Right now, the perception that is determined by the armed forces in Pakistan is a fair one, and it is inevitable that the military is the one who stands to benefit the most from it. Of course, this is merely to point out that the benefits of such a deep relationship should accrue also to ordinary Pakistanis, especially in fields which concern and benefit them.
Pakistan’s isolationism and internal civil-military contradictions are retarding its progress towards a prosperous market state that can look after its large population better. To achieve this, Pakistan must stay on the course of normalising its relations with India through free trade and allowing India to trade with Central Asia through its territory the same way it is willing to serve as a transit territory for the movement of goods from Gwadar to the western regions of China. If we were to learn the philosophy behind China’s conduct in addition to just doing military exercises, we would do what the world wants from us and not adopt an unrealistic defiant posture.
Gilgit-Baltistan:Pakistan forsees a trans-regional economic zone encompassing China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries
He pointed out that if this experiment succeeds, over time we will be a little more ambitious and try to explore a trans-regional economic zone encompassing China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. This kind of integrative economic networking will fit well into the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well.
Pakistan and China both aspire to enhance connectivity between them. They will achieve this objective by upgrading the Karakoram Highway, building a 411-mile railroad from Havelian to Khunjerab Pass, install a fiber optic link across the border, and explore lying of oil and gas pipelines that can emanate from the Gulf and end up in China’s western region.
“These objectives are daunting. But the close ties between Pakistan and China, the resilience of our two peoples, and the ingenuity of our professionals gives us strong hope that we can achieve them,” he remarked.
He said that China’s economy is fast integrating with the Western Asian and European economies. China’s trade routed via Urumqi, through Khunjerab and Gwadar and destined for Dubai and London, can save more than 5,000 miles and several days of transit time.
Right now, he said, the bulk of the Chinese trade with the Middle East has to pass through the Indian Ocean and the choking point of Malacca Straits. The distance from Dubai to Shanghai is 9,000 miles; from Dubai to Khunjerab 3,300 miles. The advantage is evident.
He said China is reviving the ancient Silk Road. Several criss-crossing modern Silk routes will pass through Pakistan. Pakistan’s unique location connects China with South and Southwest Asia as well as the Arabian Sea and the Middle East. It also constitutes an important artery to Central Asia.
“Xinjiang and northern provinces of Pakistan will form a key plank in the emerging architecture for new silk routes,” he added.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit- Baltistan border Kashgar prefecture.
Historically, traders from all parts of Pakistan have been coming to Kashgar for various transactions. Every year, Pakistani traders and trade officials form the biggest delegation to the Central and South Asia Commodity Fair.
Naturally businessmen come from Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Kashgar, but they come from as far as Sialkot, Wazirabad, Lahore, and even Karachi. This is so because there is geographical contiguity between Xinjiang and Pakistan’s northern territories. More importantly, their economies complement each other, Ambassador Khan stated.
Social stability and ethnic harmony, Ambassador Masood Khan said are essential for realizing these dreams.
Pakistan and China have vowed to oppose and defeat the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
“Our joint efforts in this regard have been productive and successful. But we cannot lower our guard. We cannot allow these forces to undermine the vision of our two peoples to move swiftly towards a stable, cohesive, interdependent and prosperous neighborhood. We have the political will and support of the masses to make this happen. Nothing should stand in our way,” he concluded.
ISLAMABAD – President Asif Ali Zardari would visit China on August 29 to further consolidate strategic partnership with Beijing.
According to official sources, President would meet the Chinese leadership to exchange views on matters of bilateral interest, geo-political situation in the region and regional security. Sources said that the President would also sign few MoUs to launch new projects in Pakistan. Both countries are likely to undertake new development projects in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Courtesy: The Nation