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Xi Jinping in Pakistan: Shifting Alliances in South Asia

“America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Henry Kissinger

Rapidly unfolding events confirm shifting post-cold-war alliances in South Asia. Chinese President Xi Jinping is starting his first state visit to Pakistan to commit investment of over $45 billion in Pakistan, representing the single largest Chinese investment in a foreign country to date.

This investment is part of China's “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which is a global project in character and scope representing China’s inexorable rise on the world stage as a superpower. The Pakistan part of it is variously described as Pakistan-China "economic corridor""industrial corridor", "trade corridor" and "strategic corridor".

Pak-China Industrial Corridor Source: Wall Street Journal

Chinese and Pakistani naval forces have also agreed to boost maritime security cooperation in the Indian ocean with the sale of eight diesel-electric AIP-equipped submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This cooperation is aimed at defending against any threats to shipping lanes in and out of Pakistani ports serving the planned Pak-China Corridor.

Russia, too, has lifted arms sales embargo on Pakistan and agreed to sell weapons and make energy infrastructure investments.  Plans are in place for first-ever Pakistan-Russia military exercises.

These development come on the heels of US President Barack Obama's second visit to India and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent tour of Western capitals with the signing of deals confirming Modi's India's status as the West's latest darling.

How strategic are China-Pakistan ties? I am reproducing the following post I published about two years ago:

China's new Prime Minister Mr. Li KeQiang has just ended a two-day visit to Pakistan. Speaking to the Senate, Li declared that "the development of China cannot be separated from the friendship with Pakistan". To make it more concrete, the Chinese Premier brought with him a 5-points proposal which emphasizes "strategic and long-term planning", "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project".

 

Source: China Daily

 



From L to R: Premier Lee, President Zardari and Prime Minister Khoso

Here's a recent report by  China's State-owned Xinhua News Agency that can help put the Chinese premier's speech in context:


“As a global economic power, China has a tremendous number of economic sea lanes to protect. China is justified to develop its military capabilities to safeguard its sovereignty and protect its vast interests around the world."


The Xinhua report has for the first time shed light on China's growing concerns with US pivot to Asia which could threaten China's international trade and its economic lifeline of energy and other natural resources it needs to sustain and grow its economy. This concern has been further reinforced by the following:


1. Frequent US statements to "check" China's rise.  For example, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a 2011 address to the Naval Postgraduate School in California: "We try everything we can to cooperate with these rising powers and to work with them, but to make sure at the same time that they do not threaten stability in the world, to be able to project our power, to be able to say to the world that we continue to be a force to be reckoned with." He added that "we continue to confront rising powers in the world - China, India, Brazil, Russia, countries that we need to cooperate with. We need to hopefully work with. But in the end, we also need to make sure do not threaten the stability of the world."

 

Source: The Guardian



2. Chinese strategists see a long chain of islands from Japan in the north, all the way down to Australia, all United States allies, all potential controlling chokepoints that could  block Chinese sea lanes and cripple its economy, business and industry.

 



Karakoram Highway-World's Highest Paved International Road at 15000 ft.



Chinese Premier's emphasis on "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" is mainly driven by their paranoia about the US intentions to "check China's rise" It is intended to establish greater maritime presence at Gwadar, located close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and  to build land routes (motorways, rail links, pipelines)  from the Persian Gulf through Pakistan to Western China. This is China's insurance to continue trade with West Asia and the Middle East in case of hostilities with the United States and its allies in Asia.

 

Pakistan's Gawadar Port- located 400 Km from the Strait of Hormuz



As to the benefits for Pakistanis, the Chinese investment in "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" will help build infrastructure, stimulate Pakistan's economy and create millions of badly needed jobs.


Clearly, China-Pakistan ties have now become much more strategic than the US-Pakistan ties, particularly since 2011 because, as American Journalist Mark Mazzetti of New York Times put it, the  Obama administration's heavy handed policies "turned Pakistan against the United States". A similar view is offered by a former State Department official Vali Nasr in his book "The Dispensable Nation".

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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 5, 2016 at 3:23pm

#Pakistan in Talks With #Russia to Purchase Su-35 fighter Jets for #PAF http://sputniknews.com/military/20160905/1044975853/pakistan-russia... … via @SputnikInt

Pakistan Air Force Chief of Staff had fruitful talks in Moscow in July on purchasing of Russian Su-35 fighter jets.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force Sohail Aman had "fruitful talks" in Moscow in July on purchasing of Russian Su-35 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E) fighter jets, Pakistani Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah told Sputnik. "Chief of Air Staff Marshal Sohail Aman had fruitful talks with the Russian partners on this issue in July," Khalilullah said answering a question on whether Islamabad could purchase the Su-35 aircraft. According to the official, the Pakistani Air Force "is considering different options of deepening cooperation with Russia."

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/military/20160905/1044975853/pakistan-russia...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 6, 2016 at 12:43pm

#Pakistan Interested in #Russian Air Defense Systems, Tanks. #DefenceDay https://sputniknews.com/asia/20160906/1045009123/pakistan-russia-ar... … via @SputnikInt

KUBINKA (Moscow region) (Sputnik) – The Pakistani armed forces are interested in Russian arms, including air defense systems and tanks, Maj. Gen. Naveed Ahmed, the director general of defense procurement for the country, told Sputnik on Tuesday.

"Our army services are [showing] keen interest in different Russian products. We are looking for the air platform, for any sorts of helicopters; for the army we are looking for tanks, we are looking for anti-tanks weapon system and more importantly we are looking for the air defense system," Ahmed, who is leading the Pakistani delegation to the Army-2016 military expo, said. The military forum, which is taking place on September 6-11 in Kubinka, a western suburb of Moscow, brings together representatives from the Russian defense industry, research institutes, universities, as well as foreign companies. Over 800 Russian and foreign participants will mount some 7,000 exhibitions throughout the week. The forum's participants and guests will attend a number of conferences and round-table discussions to discuss the future development of military technology. On Monday, Pakistani Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah told that Minister of Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain would visit the forum. According to the ambassador, Pakistan is interested in expanding its military and technical cooperation with Russia.

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/asia/20160906/1045009123/pakistan-russia-ar...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 7, 2016 at 4:57pm

#Pakistan, #Russia Negotiating Deal on #Russian Su-35, Su-37 Fighter Jets. #PAF https://sputniknews.com/military/20160908/1045073021/pakistan-russi... … via @SputnikInt

Islamabad and Moscow are negotiating a deal on Su-35 and Su-37 jets, Shahab Qadir Khan, deputy director of export promotion services in the Pakistani Defense Export Promotion Organization, told Sputnik.

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/military/20160908/1045073021/pakistan-russi...
"Pakistan is involved in negotiations with Russia on a deal for Su-35 and Su-37. We are in initial stage now," Qadir Khan said.

According to Qadir Khan, the Pakistani Defense Ministry's delegation which came to the Army-2016 expo includes technical experts, who assess capabilities of the jets as well as look for Russian helicopters. "We already have Russian transport helicopters Mi-17, but we are looking for other helicraft, and we are looking at assessment of Mi-35 to buy in the near future," Qadir Khan added. The Army-2016 expo, organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, kicked off on Tuesday and is due to last through Sunday. The forum is held in the military-themed Patriot Park in Kubinka near Moscow and in a number of locations in Russia's military districts. The event brings together representatives from the Russian defense industry, research institutes, universities, as well as foreign companies. Over 800 Russian and foreign participants are expected to be involved in some 7,000 exhibitions throughout the week. The forum's participants and guests are attending a number of conferences and roundtables to discuss the future development of military technology.

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/military/20160908/1045073021/pakistan-russi...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2016 at 11:18pm

US State Dept: #US to stay with #Pakistan 'long into the future'

http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/us-to-stay-w...

The US would continue to stay engaged with Pakistan and provide it economic assistance "long into the future", said a State Department spokesperson.

In a statement shared with Dawn online, the State Department on Monday also emphasised the need for Pakistan to take immediate steps to stop cross-border terrorist attacks into Afghanistan.

"We have urged the government of Pakistan to redouble its standing commitment to closer counter terrorism cooperation with Afghanistan against all groups that pose a long-term security threat to both countries," the official said.


The State Department pointed out that "robust civilian and security assistance" to Pakistan allowed the US to jointly work on issues important to both countries, such as energy, economic growth, security, education and health.

"The US has a joint interest with Pakistan in the development of Pakis­tan's civilian institutions and its economic growth. Our diplomatic and assistance engagement will continue long into the future," Dawn online reported citing the statement.

The State Department spokesperson, while explaining the rationale for staying engaged with Pakistan, noted that the country had suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists and violent extremists.

"The US stands in solidarity with the people of Pakistan and all who fight the menace of terrorism, and we are grateful for the sacrifices the Pakistani military has made in shutting down terrorist safe havens, most recently in the North Waziristan operation," the official said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 12, 2016 at 7:15pm

#India wary of growing #Russia-#Pakistan military ties

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/india-wary-of-growing-r...

India has expressed concern over Russia's fledgling but growing defence relationship with Pakistan, ahead of a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a world summit in India.

Mr Putin has, in recent years, moved to establish defence ties with Pakistan as India began diversifying beyond Russia for its defence equipment and deepening ties with the US.

Russia and Pakistan have held discussions over the sale of military hardware and signed an agreement last year for the sale of four attack helicopters to Islamabad. In a sign of their growing defence engagement, the two countries held their first joint military exercise, "Friendship 2016", that ended on Monday, much to New Delhi's unease.

"We have conveyed our views to the Russian side that military cooperation with Pakistan, which is a state that sponsors and practises terrorism as a matter of state policy, is a wrong approach and it will only create further problems," India's Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran was quoted as saying to Russian news agency Ria Novosti last Friday.

Russia and India are fond of calling each other "time-tested friends" and are Cold War allies with a diplomatic relationship dating back to 1947.

For years, India depended on Russia for all its military supply. While the two countries remain major defence partners, India is now increasingly sourcing weapons from other countries such as the US and France. Moscow has lost out on major jet and helicopter deals to other countries. Bilateral trade between India and Russia is below US$10 billion (S$13.8 billion), partly due to poor transport links. India's trade with the US is now more than US$100 billion.

Officials said Russia would remain an important country for India but experts noted that ties between Pakistan and Russia would remain an irritant for India.

"We have always seen Russia as a close ally. Russia will remain important but the Modi government is clearly annoyed with Russia over Pakistan and it is making that clear," said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 17, 2016 at 6:25pm

#BRICSSummit: #India's & #Modi's Failure. #China. #Russia refused to name #Pakistan on #terrorism http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/brics-summit-why... … via @IndianExpress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just been delivered an unhappy lesson at the just-concluded BRICS summit in Goa: though nine-tenths of geopolitics is about bluff, the critical one-tenth is about knowing when to fold.
The Prime Minister proclaimed, in his closing statement at the summit, that BRICS member-states were “agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor such forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as the terrorists themselves”. The BRICS 109 paragraph summit declaration, however, doesn’t have a single sentence reflecting this purported consensus—not even the words “nurture”, “shelter” or “sponsor”.
Worse, from India’s optic, the summit declaration calls for action against all United Nations-designated terrorist organisations which include the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad but names only the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s proxy, Jabhat al-Nusra—both threats to China and Russia but not to India.

China’s President Xi Jinping, said success against terrorism made it imperative to “addresses both symptoms and root causes”—a stock-phrase Islamabad often uses to refer to the conflict over Kashmir. Russian President Vladimir Putin made no mention of terrorism emanating from Pakistan at all.
Add to this, the United States’ studied refusal to be drawn into harsh action against Pakistan and there’s a simple lesson to be drawn: less than a month after it began, the Prime Minister’s campaign to isolate Pakistan is not gaining momentum. 

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 30, 2016 at 7:44am

Why #Russia Is Getting Closer To #Pakistan And Abandoning #India? #US #China #BRICS #CPEC http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/10/russia-pakistan-india-relations/ … via @ValueWalk

Russia and India have been friends for nearly 70 years. Moscow and New Delhi have supported one another on the international diplomatic sphere; they signed lucrative military deals and deepened economic ties…

But Russia-Indian relations came crashing down in 2016. Why?

So why on Earth would Russia lose interest in its seemingly perfect, long-time ally? Why all of a sudden Russia has warmed up to Pakistan, its Cold War rival and the biggest historical enemy of India?

Global relations are the answer. While many may argue, Russia has been very smart about global relations in terms of strategical and long-term planning.


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By having both Russia and China as its allies, Pakistan wins a lot. Islamabad had been friends with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia for years, but it now realized that neither Washington nor Riyadh really care about its interests.

Pakistan now sees that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been sending all those funds in order to prevent the country from becoming an intimidating force in South Asia and becoming financially independent.

Russia and China, meanwhile, are offering that independence as well as the prospect of becoming the most powerful country in the region (thus, signing military deals and holding military drills).

It also adds to the fact that both America and Saudi Arabia have played a huge role in spreading sectarianism and terrorism in Pakistan. So naturally Islamabad has doubts about their good intentions.

During the BRICS summit earlier this month, China protected Pakistan from India’s accusations. And by not standing up for India this time, Russia showed on whose side it’s on.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 30, 2016 at 7:45am

Why #Russia Is Getting Closer To #Pakistan And Abandoning #India? #US #China #BRICS #CPEC http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/10/russia-pakistan-india-relations/ … via @ValueWalk

Russia and India have been friends for nearly 70 years. Moscow and New Delhi have supported one another on the international diplomatic sphere; they signed lucrative military deals and deepened economic ties…

But Russia-Indian relations came crashing down in 2016. Why?

So why on Earth would Russia lose interest in its seemingly perfect, long-time ally? Why all of a sudden Russia has warmed up to Pakistan, its Cold War rival and the biggest historical enemy of India?

Global relations are the answer. While many may argue, Russia has been very smart about global relations in terms of strategical and long-term planning.


----

By having both Russia and China as its allies, Pakistan wins a lot. Islamabad had been friends with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia for years, but it now realized that neither Washington nor Riyadh really care about its interests.

Pakistan now sees that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been sending all those funds in order to prevent the country from becoming an intimidating force in South Asia and becoming financially independent.

Russia and China, meanwhile, are offering that independence as well as the prospect of becoming the most powerful country in the region (thus, signing military deals and holding military drills).

It also adds to the fact that both America and Saudi Arabia have played a huge role in spreading sectarianism and terrorism in Pakistan. So naturally Islamabad has doubts about their good intentions.

During the BRICS summit earlier this month, China protected Pakistan from India’s accusations. And by not standing up for India this time, Russia showed on whose side it’s on.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 15, 2016 at 4:52pm

#China, #Russia, #Pakistan #Superpower Triangle Becoming Reality http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/11/china-russia-pakistan-super-power/ … via @ValueWalk

The Russia, China and Pakistan superpower triangle is becoming a reality. Moscow has just announced it will hold trilateral Russian-Chinese-Pakistani talks next month.

As theories around the Russia, China and Pakistan superpower triangle continue to build up, Moscow has just expressed its interest in strengthening ties with Islamabad and Beijing. The agenda of next month’s talks will be establishing a wider regional partnership on Afghanistan.

Zamir Kabulov, Russian Foreign Ministry’s director of the Second Asian Department, announced on Monday that the Russian-Chinese-Pakistani consultations will be held in Moscow in December.

“We are discussing this with the Chinese, the Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis. There is work on specifics,” Kabulov said, adding that it’s in the regional nations’ “natural” interests to guard themselves from terrorist threats in the region.


The news comes amid rising war tensions between India and Pakistan. Although Russia remains India’s key weapons supplier, there is a number of reasons why the Russia, China and Pakistan superpower triangle is becoming a reality.

Russia has been actively strengthening its military, economic and diplomatic ties with both China and Pakistan. Even though Pakistan is Russia’s Cold War rival, Moscow is understandably keen on forming an alliance with Islamabad and Beijing. China and Pakistan have been traditional allies for decades. Beijing has always provided its military and diplomatic support to Islamabad against its historical enemy, India.

Forming the Russian-Chinese-Pakistani superpower triangle would not only allow them to impose efficient measures to counter the spread of terrorism and radicalism in the region but also stand up to America’s growing influence in the region. In fact, given that Russia, China and Pakistan are all nuclear powers, their alliance also makes them an intimidating nuclear force to be reckoned with.

Russia, China and Pakistan have about 7,620 nuclear warheads (according to the official figures provided by the SIPRI) combined. That’s a serious advantage in a potential military confrontation against any enemy of such a superpower triangle, whether it’s India or the United States.


Interestingly, Russia announced the Russian-Chinese-Pakistani talks a few days after India, Pakistan’s traditional nemesis, signed a historical nuclear deal with Japan. In fact, it was the first-ever nuclear deal signed by Japan, which is the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, with a non-NPT nation.

India, like Pakistan, never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Seeing that India is strengthening ties with its regional allies, Russia and China decided to ramp up their support for Pakistan. The Russian-Chinese-Pakistani talks in December will mark yet another indication of Russia and China’s growing interest toward Pakistan.

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China has repeatedly pledged to help Pakistan in case of any foreign aggression. It also adds to the fact that China supplies Pakistan with more weapons than any other country in the world. For Russia, meanwhile, Pakistan is a potentially lucrative buyer of its advanced weapons.

Aside from strengthening military and diplomatic ties with Islamabad, Beijing is also actively building nuclear reactors in Pakistan. So basically, the superpower triangle between China, Russia and Pakistan can become an intimidating force in the region.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 26, 2016 at 9:36pm

#Chinese naval ships in #Pakistan's #Gwadar port challenge #India's regional policy. #Russia #Iran http://scroll.in/article/822619/chinese-naval-ships-in-pakistans-gw... … via @scroll_in

The transformation of Gwadar port on the Pakistan coast as a base for Chinese Navy ships was long expected, but when media reports actually appeared on Friday to that effect, it was startling news. The reports quoted Pakistani officials saying that China proposes to deploy its naval ships in coordination with the Pakistan Navy to safeguard Gwadar port, which is the gateway to the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

India would have had some intelligence tip-off, which probably explains the mysterious episode on November 14 of an Indian submarine lurking in the vicinity of Pakistani territorial waters. It was brusquely shooed away by the Pakistani Navy. Of course, the corridor was operationalised a fortnight ago with Chinese ships docking at Gwadar to carry the first containers brought by a Chinese trade convoy from Xinjiang for despatch to the world market.

Viewed from many perspectives, the month of November becomes a defining moment in the geopolitics of our region. But the strangest bit of news would be that earlier this month, Gwadar also received Russia’s Federal Security Services chief Alexander Bogdanov. It was a hush-hush inspection tour aimed at assessing the efficacy of Russian ships using the port during their long voyages, to assert Moscow’s return to the global stage.

Equally, this is the first visit by a Russian spy chief to Pakistan in over two decades and it took place just as America elected a new president, Donald Trump. Maybe the timing is coincidental, but more likely, it is not. The Russian diplomacy invariably moves in lockstep. Bogdanov’s visit was scheduled just a few weeks before the planned trilateral strategic dialogue between Russia, China and Pakistan, ostensibly regarding the Afghan situation, in Moscow next month. Bogdanov reportedly sought a formal Russian-Pakistani collaborative tie-up over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Moscow wouldn’t have made such a move without coordinating with China first. At a meeting in Moscow with his Chinese counterpart, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying that China-Russia military cooperation is “at an all-time high and it will contribute to peace and stability on the Eurasian continent and beyond”.

Meanwhile, Chinese regional diplomacy, too, is moving in tandem. The Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wangquan (who is also vice-chairman of China’s Military Commission, which is headed by President Xi Jinping) paid a three-day visit to Iran last week. Chang’s visit held considerable geopolitical significance for the region and he described his meetings as signifying a turning point in the China-Iran strategic partnership. It is useful to recall that during Xi’s visit to Iran in January, the two countries had signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement that included a call for much closer defence and intelligence ties.

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