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China, Pakistan's all-weather friend

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19 March 2010 08:26

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Special Correspondent for India's Mail Today, is the author of two books on India's Northeast and Kazakhstan.

China is Pakistan's all-weather friend. Despite mounting terror attacks and the presence of terror outfits in Pakistan, Beijing has immense faith in Islamabad's capabilities.

This was reiterated on 7 March by none other than Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at a press conference in Beijing. 'China and Pakistan will continue to expand practical cooperation in various fields on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and China will continue to support the stability, development and prosperity in Pakistan,' were Yang's exact words.

A closer look at Sino-Pak ties will underline that Yang's remarks are rooted in history. Beginning from their border settlement pact of 1963, China has emerged as Pakistan's single most trusted and enduring military ally.

China provided support in the construction of several crucial infrastructure projects including Karakoram Highway (pictured; the highest paved international road in the world, connecting China and Pakistan), ports such as Gwadar, and the nuclear programme. In 1986, Pakistan and China signed a civilian nuclear technology agreement. According to a 2001 US Department of Defence report, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and provided critical technical assistance in the construction of Pakistan's nuclear facilities.

Most importantly, China has lent muscle to Pakistan's military machine against India. In fact, the first formal step towards Sino-Pak defence cooperation was taken soon after 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. Pakistan's missile development programme was started in the 1980s with assistance from the Chinese.

Pakistan has benefited a great deal from Beijing's aid, which, unlike other aid providers, has come without strings. Their friendship probably reflects the commonly used refrain, 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' (South Asian giant India remains an adversary to both Beijing and Islamabad). So much so that on the eve of resumption of Indo-Pakistani talks in New Delhi on 25 February, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Querishi said in Beijing that China has a 'blank cheque' from Pakistan for mediating between Pakistan and India. 

But India, which has ruled out any third party mediation in Indo-Pak affairs, has been circumspect of Sino-Pak ties. Last year it lodged a strong protest with China over announcing support for hydro power projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Media reports suggest Beijing is not pursuing the projects.

Photo by Flickr user dreamX, used under a Creative Commons license.

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