Last week, China gave some well-meaning advice to Pakistan, its ‘all-weather friend’, as to what sustains enduring cooperation in inter-state relations. There was a time when China probably believed that cooperation was cemented by political affinity, but times have changed.
From the Pakistani side, the continuing faith continues to be that the “fates of the two countries are tightly interwoven” with Pakistan unfailingly supporting China’s national interests and respecting the sovereign independence and territorial integrity of China. Indeed, both Pakistan and China attached great importance to the principles of mutual confidence, mutual respect and mutual assistance in mutual partnership “that can withstand any test.”
The China-Pakistan Cooperation Conference held in Beijing last week reiterated these fine sentiments. The running theme at the conference was, as People’s Daily observed, “the healthy development of China-Pakistan relations not only corresponds to the basic interests of both countries but also has a significant influence in maintaining regional peace and promoting regional development.”
However, what is Track II if not a forum to cogitate less formally? And the Chinese side used the conference to do some futuristic thinking on China’s “concerns” regarding partnership with Pakistan. A top-ranking Chinese academic pointed out that much as there is “good cooperation in political affairs such as territorial and sovereignty issues” between China and Pakistan, “economic cooperation has lagged far behind.” China’s trade with Pakistan in 2010, after all, came to just about 10 billion dollars as compared to the trade with US (389billion dollars), Japan (300) or India (61.7 billion).
The People’s Daily report concluded: “Looking back in history, we cannot ignore the international circumstances that have spurred the rapid and prosperous development of China-Pakistan ties. But if we only united on political issues, this cooperation would be fragile and temporary. Therefore, in order to enhance the permanent and healthy development of China and Pakistan, it is indispensable to develop internal attractiveness and make extensive non-political cooperation for both sides.” [Emphasis added.]
The decoded message may be read as follows: “Common antipathies or hostility toward India used to provide the bedrock of the China-Pak friendship, but this co-relation is changing. Past pattern of cooperation was overwhelmingly political (India-centric) but is becoming unsustainable. China’s priority lies in external partnerships that enhance its development. Therefore, Pakistan should apply new thinking, get its act together and burnish its continued attractiveness as China’s partner in a regional milieu that accentuates non-political cooperation.” The PD commentary is here.
Posted in Diplomacy.
– October 26, 2011